Press Release | Associated Press | McClatchy | Sacramento Bee | Politico
The Associated Press has announced that Gary Pruitt, 54, will be its new President and CEO, replacing the retiring Tom Curley. Pruitt has been with McClatchy for 28 years, and since 2001 has been Chairman of the Board, President and CEO of the nation’s third-largest newspaper company. Pruitt, a member of its Board of Directors for nine years, will become the 13th person to lead the AP.
“In Gary, we have chosen a seasoned and worthy successor to Tom Curley to continue AP’s transition to a digital news company,” said Dean Singleton, outgoing chairman of the AP Board of Directors and chairman of MediaNews Group Inc. “Gary has deep experience in the changing world of the news industry, an acute business sense and an overriding understanding of and commitment to AP’s news mission. His background as a First Amendment lawyer is a hand-in-glove fit with AP’s long leadership role in fighting for open government and freedom of information. And, he knows AP well.”
“The Associated Press is the most important news organization in the world and an essential force in democracy,” said Pruitt. “Tom Curley has made AP an industry leader in looking for new ways to grow in this digital era. AP’s work on digital platforms, e-commerce models and making video fully accessible opens doors for new audiences for AP as well as AP print and broadcast members and customers. I’m honored to play a role in AP’s next phase of growth and innovation.”
Pruitt begins in July.
“Gary and I have worked closely together for the last nine years,” said Curley, who will step down in August after a brief period of overlap with Pruitt. “He is a strong decision-maker and experienced leader with excellent management skills. Gary has demonstrated profound admiration for AP’s staff and is deeply committed to upholding AP’s values and its global role as the definitive source for trusted news.”
Pruitt’s compensation at McClatchy was $3.71 million in 2010, lower than the $3.75 million he earned in 2009, according to SEC filings reported by the Sacramento Business Journal.
In a 2007 Wall Street Journal article, Pruitt was praised for managing McClatchy’s acquisition of the Knight Ridder newspapers.
Mr. Pruitt is one of the last true believers in the financial power of the press. He says he expects McClatchy to recover from its slump, with the help of a new deal with Yahoo Inc. aimed at driving visitors and ads to his newspapers’ Web sites. He plans to sell off some nonnewspaper operations and to continue a cost-control strategy that has so far spared reporters’ jobs, a McClatchy hallmark. … “I think the future is bright for newspapers,” he says. “The newspaper alone is not sufficient. But it can be used as a part of a portfolio of print and electronic products that can reach targeted audiences and mass audiences.”
The Sacramento Bee, a McClatchy paper, had a less charitable view of the Knight Ridder acquisition:
The deal made Pruitt something of a superstar in the newspaper business.
But that was followed almost immediately by years of painful downsizing as McClatchy, burdened with debt from the Knight Ridder deal, was confronted with a deep recession and an epic downturn in the traditional news media industry. Thousands of employees were let go and the stock price and profits tumbled. In the past year or so, the company has stabilized.
So, who will replace Pruitt as McClatchy’s CEO? The Bee reports:
Pruitt’s role will be split. He will be replaced as CEO by the company’s chief financial officer, Patrick Talamantes, who has been with the company for 11 years. Kevin McClatchy, a fifth-generation member of the family that controls the company, will assume the role of chairman.
In a memo to staff, Pruitt explains his departure:
So why am I leaving?
Frankly, I fully expected to retire with McClatchy. My McClatchy experience, through good times and tough times, has been one of the most rewarding of my life. And I’ve got to tell you that I’m more optimistic now about McClatchy’s future success than I have been at any time since the “great recession.” Still, I felt I just couldn’t pass up this opportunity to lead The Associated Press, one of the world’s largest and most respected news organizations, at such a pivotal time. McClatchy and AP share many of the same values, foremost among them is the commitment to high-quality journalism.
Pruitt tells the AP the company will continue to change:
“I think AP is successfully transitioning, but the transition isn’t over and it never will be,” Pruitt said in an interview.
Intense pressure on many media companies has made them increasingly reliant on AP newsgathering. But to continue delivering its journalism, Pruitt said the organization must look for more revenue by expanding in Asia and other fast-growing regions worldwide and by increasing its product offerings.
Curley tells AP staff in a memo: “You are in good hands.” A sign this will be a smooth transition: Pruitt told McClatchy staff, they too are in “excellent hands.”