Top POLITICO talent to exit amid company shakeup

Top talent at POLITICO — including co-founder and CEO Jim VandeHei, Playbook founder Mike Allen, Chief Operating Officer Kim Kingsley and Executive Vice President of Expansion Danielle Jones — are departing the political news organization later this year, POLITICO publisher Robert Allbritton announced in a memo Thursday.

John Harris, POLITICO's other co-founder, will become publisher and retain his editor in chief title, with Allbritton becoming CEO of the company, according to the memo.

"In the wake of the sale of the family’s television stations, and several new business ventures successfully launched under the leadership of my 27th floor colleague Duncan Evans, I have been eager to make the strategic direction of POLITICO my primary professional focus," Allbritton wrote.

The departures represent a major turning point for POLITICO, which began its life in 2007 as a scrappy news outlet that accelerated the political news cycle to the speed of the Internet and spawned stars including Ben Smith, now the editor in chief of BuzzFeed, Alex Burns, now a metro reporter for The New York Times and Michael Calderone, now the chief media writer at The Huffington Post.

In a separate announcement published by POLITICO, VandeHei says he plans to start a new venture after he leaves, having "caught the entrepreneurial bug a decade ago."

"There is no greater challenge than trying to match in a new space the magic and success we pulled off here. This moment in media and in history is putting every sector and idea in play - and it is too intriguing and wide open to play it safe."

The marquee exits stem from a disagreement with POLITICO owner Robert Allbritton over over the company's finances, The Huffington Post reported Thursday.

News of their departures comes as the Beltway news organization is ramping up to cover the primary elections, but Allen and VandeHei are not leaving POLITICO until the 2016 presidential election is finished, according to CNN's Dylan Byers.

VandeHei, Allen and Kingsley are three of Politico's most influential and veteran figures, and credited with Politico's rapid rise to become one the most prominent news outlets in Washington. Allen, the author of the morning Playbook tip-sheet, was once labeled by The New York Times as "the man the White House wakes up to."

In the last year, POLITICO has scaled up its editorial ambitions enormously, developing a satellite outpost in Brussels with German media giant Axel Springer and expanding its model to cover statehouses throughout the United States. The company has already set up shop in New York, Florida, New Jersey and California, where it has exported its distinct blend of events, insider-focused newsletters, subscriber-centric policy coverage and general interest news.

Late last year, POLITICO Europe announced plans to double in size; earlier in 2015, Allbritton outlined plans to triple POLITICO's size in four years. An all-staff memo from VandeHei in January said the Arlington-based outlet was "in the middle of a substantial transformation of our newsroom."

We are pouring millions into adding deep-dive, original reporting to the arsenal. It's not either-or. We want to be better — way better — than anyone else at BOTH.

More expansion seems to be on the way: In his memo, Allbritton predicted new investments in technology, business acumen and "new markets that we have not yet conquered." In a tweet, Allbritton said the company would "hire the best and grow like crazy."

VandeHei started POLITICO in 2007 with Harris, who was then his colleague at The Washington Post, and quickly established the outlet as a high-metabolism challenger to storied media organizations like The New York Times and The Washington Post.

Ahead of the 2016 election, POLITICO lost many of its marquee reporters to competing news organizations. Reporter Maggie Haberman left for The New York Times, Deputy Managing Editor Laura McGann left for Vox, and Managing Editor Rachel Smolkin left for CNN.

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    Benjamin Mullin

    Benjamin Mullin is the managing editor of He previously reported for Poynter as a staff writer, Google Journalism Fellow and Naughton Fellow, covering journalism innovation, business practices and ethics.


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