Wednesday, April 1, 2009
WSJ on retirement of Craig Moon; says he'll explore opportunities in media where values are way down; that's great news for readers here
The Wall Street Journal wrote the following story from an interview with former Tennessean publisher Craig Moon, who is returning to Nashville to explore media business opportunities.
That's good news for readers here who are poorly served by the existing print media outlets.
USA Today President and Publisher Craig Moon announced his sudden retirement Tuesday, leaving the country's largest newspaper with its top two jobs unfilled during perhaps the most difficult stretch in its 27-year history. He also said the newspaper has lost about 100,000 subscribers just from the slowdown in travel.
Mr. Moon said in an interview that the slowdown has resulted in a reduction of more than 7% in the number of copies of USA Today distributed through partnerships with hotel chains such as Marriott, which account for more than half of its circulation.
The 59-year-old executive, who spent 23 years at parent company Gannett Co. and the last six as publisher of USA Today, has overseen a publication that has come under increasing economic pressure. Gannett expects ad revenue to fall by as much as 35% in the first quarter, Chief Financial Officer Gracia Martore said at an investor conference in March. Gannett executives also had said at the conference they were bracing for a significant circulation hit.
The 1.3 million daily copies distributed at hotels in the six months ending Sept. 28 accounted for more than half of USA Today's average weekday circulation of 2.3 million, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations. ABC releases figures for the six months ending in March at the end of April.
Mr. Moon said he decided to leave USA Today to explore investment opportunities in the media industry, where "values are way down." He said he did not view his departure as an escape from a sinking industry, adding in USA Today "you still have the workings of a successful business."
Mr. Moon's departure expands the void at the top of the paper following the recent resignation of editor Kenneth Paulson, whose replacement has not been named. John Hillkirk is serving as Mr. Paulson's interim replacement.
Gannett said it hasn't decided on a successor for Mr. Moon.
The move was largely unexpected within Gannett. USA Today founder Al Neuharth, who still writes a weekly column for the paper, said he found out in a call Tuesday morning from Mr. Moon and Gannett Chief Executive Craig Dubow. "It would be unfair to say I expected that news," Mr. Neuharth said. "But things happen. People retire."
Mr. Moon isn't walking away empty-handed. Gannett in its 2008 proxy statement valued Mr. Moon's pension at $3.3 million as of Dec. 31, 2007.