What will the apparently less-than-pleasant departure of New York Times Co. chief executive Janet Robinson mean for the Boston Globe, its second-largest newspaper?
Obviously it’s way too early to say. But no sooner had the word gone out last night than Globe editor Marty Baron tweeted, “Grateful for her support of the @bostonglobe: New York Times CEO Janet Robinson to retire.” Not that it’s possible to read too much meaning into that.
On the other hand, Financial Times columnist John Gapper read plenty of meaning into the Times’ own account of Robinson’s retirement, tweeting, “Sulzberger fired Robinson, according to NYT (in ninth para)” (via the inestimable Jack Shafer). And what does that ninth paragraph say?
Last Friday, Mr. Sulzberger called a meeting with Ms. Robinson on the 15th floor of the company’s Manhattan headquarters. He raised the issue of installing a different type of leadership at the company, according to people familiar with the meeting who declined to be identified discussing confidential company business.
The Times Co. has done a far better job than most newspaper companies of transitioning to the digital age. The Times and the Globe have pioneered the introduction of flexible paid digital editions. Moreover, both papers are performing financially much more strongly than they were when the bottom nearly fell out of the entire industry back in 2009. So you’d think Robinson would be on the plus side on those two key issues.
Nor do I think it’s credible to believe she was ousted because of the Times Co.’s collapsing stock price. As Ira Stoll notes at Future of Capitalism (via Romenesko), $10,000 worth of stock in 2004, the year she took over, would be worth $1,855 today. But that’s an industry-wide trend, and, seen in the context of major newspaper companies like Tribune falling into bankruptcy, the Times Co. seems to have done rather well.
So it will be very interesting to see what the real reason is for her abrupt, well-compensated ($4.5 million next year) departure.
Unrelated observation: Given their travails of recent months, how cool is it that I’m able to credit both Jack Shafer (now with Reuters) and Jim Romenesko in the same blog post? The natural order has been restored.