Maribel Perez Wadsworth, president of Gannett Media and publisher of USA Today, will be leaving the company at the end of the year,
Her departure was announced in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing Wednesday and later in a town hall she conducted for the staff of USA Today and Gannett’s 200-plus regional papers.
She will be succeeded on an interim basis by Henry Faure Walker, CEO of Gannett’s United Kingdom subsidiary Newsquest, according to a source who listened to the virtual town hall.
Faure Walker will continue to run the UK papers, chief communications officer Lark-Marie Anton told me. The SEC filing said, “The Company will leverage the depth and breadth of its talented executives to manage the Gannett Media organization during this transition,” but did not indicate whether Perez Wadsworth’s job will ultimately be filled.”
Perez Wadsworth, who began her career as a reporter in Rockford, Illinois, has been with Gannett for 25 years. For most of the last decade, with varying titles, she has run the business side of USA Today and more recently its regional group of newspapers as well.
She has been Gannett’s No. 2 executive to CEO Mike Reed and is currently chair of the newspaper industry’s trade association, the News/Media Alliance.
The company has had deep financial difficulties this year, laying off 400 and leaving 400 more positions open. It recently announced a new wave of cost-savings including mandatory one-week unpaid leave for all but essential employees this quarter.
In a statement, Reed said that Perez Wadsworth “has served Gannett with passion and conviction” and praised her as “an indefatigable defender of journalism in our democracy.”
In a farewell message, Perez Wadsworth said, “Our company and leadership are strong, and our strategy is sound.”
Besides the cost-cutting, that strategy has been focused on building paid digital subscriptions, now standing at just over 2 million.
Most of the regional dailies still produce print editions six days a week and USA Today five, despite setbacks to its hotel distribution in recent years. Perez Wadsworth told me in a May interview, “The print edition of USA Today is a profitable product, which we will continue to publish as long as readers want it and it continues to make financial sense.”