Gannett Co. chairman and CEO Craig Dubow has resigned for health reasons. His tenure coincided with a steep decline in print advertising that triggered painful cutbacks at the largest U.S. newspaper publisher.
The departure announced Thursday wasn't a complete surprise. It comes just three weeks after Dubow, 56, took his second medical leave in the last two years to deal with chronic back and hip problems.
The change should be a smooth one. Dubow is being replaced as CEO by Gracia Martore, formerly the company's president and chief operating officer. Martore, who will continue to serve as president, ran Gannett during both of Dubow's medical leaves. Dubow's absence in 2010 lasted four months.
Dubow's role as Gannett's chairman is being filled by Marjorie Magner, a member of the company's board since 2006. Magner, 62, will be a non-executive chairman.
In an interview, Martore said she intends to hew to a strategy that she and Dubow have already been following. Like a lot of publishers, Gannett is trying to sell more digital advertising while still trying to highlight the advantages of reaching millions of people who still read its newspapers' print editions. The company, which is based in McLean, Va., owns USA Today, which boasts the country's largest print circulation, and more than 80 other dailies.
"Craig has been a great mentor to me, so this is an absolutely bittersweet moment," Martore, 60, said. "But at the same time, I am excited at the great opportunities we have ahead."
The times during Dubow's tenure as Gannett's CEO were tough, largely because the newspaper industry's largest source of revenue — print advertising — has been steadily shifting to less expensive alternative on the Internet.
Since Dubow became CEO, Gannet's annual revenue from print advertising has plunged from $5.2 billion in 2005 to $2.7 billion last year. The declines continued so far this year, mirroring most other newspaper publishers.
To help offset the falling revenue, Dubow oversaw thousands of jobs cuts and unpaid leaves for its remaining workers. Although the austerity measures have kept Gannett profitable, they weren't enough to satisfy investors. Gannett's stock closed Thursday at $10.45, an 85 percent decline since July 2005 when Dubow took over as CEO.
"The decision to step down was difficult, but I must now focus on my health and my family. I will miss working with the talented team at Gannett and firmly believe the company's best days lie ahead," Dubow said in a statement. "Gannett is in good hands under Gracia's leadership and well positioned to succeed going forward."
Dubow, who worked at Gannett for 30 years, also is a member of The Associated Press' board of directors. An AP spokesman said the news cooperative only learned of Dubow's resignation from Gannett late Thursday and had no comment on how that departure might affect his position on the AP's board.