Doug Franklin to succeed Mike Sheehan as Globe CEO

Doug Franklin (via LinkedIn)
Doug Franklin (via LinkedIn)

Also published at WGBHNews.org.

Doug Franklin, a top executive with Cox Enterprises and Cox Media Group, will succeed Mike Sheehan as chief executive officer of the Boston Globe on January 1, according to an announcement made a little while ago by Globe publisher John Henry.

Henry’s memo, a copy of which was obtained by Media Nation, is effusive in its praise of Sheehan, crediting the former Hill Holliday advertising executive with untangling the Globe from the New York Times Company, which sold the Globe to Henry in 2013; moving the Globe‘s printing operations to a new facility in Taunton; and preparing the news and business staffs to move to downtown Boston in mid-2017.

“These initiatives are as complex as they are risky,” Henry wrote. “Any one of them would be a once-in-a-lifetime challenge for an executive. But the leadership team, working under Mike, has tackled each of them.”

Of Franklin, Henry says: “As I’ve gotten to know Doug over the past few months, I’ve come to understand that he is fearless, energeticarticulate, and passionate in his desire to help the Globe achieve our long-term goal of creating a sustainable business model for high level journalism.”

The Globe covers the story here.

The full text of Henry’s message to Globe employees follows.

Three years ago, I was fortunate enough to meet Mike Sheehan and was immediately taken with his passion for the Globe’s mission and his love of our city. It didn’t take much to get Mike to agree to help. If I recall correctly, employment negotiations took all of about two minutes, the first minute on compensation, the second on length of service. We never discussed either again. I’ve been involved in many protracted negotiations over the years, but this wasn’t a negotiation—it was a meeting of the minds of two people determined to serve and protect one of New England’s most important institutions during a difficult time for American newspapers.

This past January, Mike reminded me that the original term we agreed to was three years and it was time to start looking for someone to succeed him in the Chief Executive Officer role before the end of the year. So we quietly embarked on a truly national search, one that involved many strong candidates. There turned out to be no shortage of talented executives who wanted to serve in that capacity. Ultimately Mike, Brian [McGrory] and I settled on a new chief executive officer we felt was perfect for the role. I’ll elaborate on this in just a moment.

On behalf of everyone at the Globe, I’d like to thank Mike for putting aside his other business interests as an owner, partner, board member, and investor and being willing to take on the Globe challenge full force from Day One through Day One Thousand. In essence, we were a new company three years ago—unwinding systems and processes from the New York Times was the first order of business. The second order was figuring out how to reduce our very high cost structure, much of it tied to the inefficient printing of newspapers on presses configured in the late 1950s and our presence in an 800,000 square foot building with astronomically high utility and upkeep costs. The third order was making sure the news organization of the future was physically located in a central, vibrant neighborhood, in space designed for how people work today while looking ahead to our digital aspirations for tomorrow.

These initiatives are as complex as they are risky. Any one of them would be a once-in-a-lifetime challenge for an executive. But the leadership team, working under Mike, has tackled each of them.

The Taunton printing facility, which was not even a concept threeplus years ago is printing 725,000 newspapers a week, with the third of five press lines now operational. Over Thanksgiving week, the Taunton mailroom inserted 16 million pieces for the Globe and six commercial clients. By March 31, 2017 Taunton will be our sole printing and distribution center with projected annual savings of $22 million, a higher quality product, and the opportunity to attract more commercial printing work.

I have no question that our move of the newsroom and business operations to 53 State Street will have equal impact on our culture and our business. Demolition of the space is complete, construction will commence on January 1, and we’re on track for a mid-2017 move. Many of you have seen the design and flow of the space, and it’s clearly reflective of an organization that’s serious about the kind of reinvention that is underway in our newsroom and throughout the organization.

None of these moves were on the radar screen—mine or Mike’s—when we first met in December of 2013, but they’re well on their way to successful completion. While these complex projects have not been without challenges and stress, they are critical building blocks in helping us achieve our goal of long-term sustainability. Some of these changes are far from glamorous, but each one is utterly vital to the success of this company.

I asked Mike what he is most proud of during his tenure, and, in typical fashion, he answered without hesitation or mincing of words. “When that newspaper lands on my doorstep every morning, it’s more relevant and interesting than it’s ever been.” Honestly, I feel exactly the same way. Mike took this job, in large part, to do whatever he could to support Brian, Ellen [Clegg], and every dedicated reporter, columnist, and editor who works here. He’s stood beside Linda [Pizutti Henry] and me when four Pulitzer Prizes were announced. He understands the vital role the Globe plays in the region, and he vigorously promotes our mission throughout the business community every day.

In fact, of all the things I’ve grown to admire about Mike, that might be what I admire most. But beyond his devotion to the mission of journalism in our community, he has for many years been the ideal ambassador for many organizations in Boston. He is deeply respected within the business community and has been one of the most important behind-the-scenes individuals in the charitable sector. He is widely hailed as a no-nonsense executive who is an unfailingly decent human being, giving his time to so many in all walks of life. Everywhere I go, someone inevitably says to me, “I was just talking to Mike about…”

Like virtually every other newspaper CEO in the country, Mike has overseen necessary downsizing, and we’ve reduced expenses $30 million since 2014. But he has vigilantly approached the task of reducing with the mantra of “newsroom last.” To Mike, this is not a cause-related strategy as much as it is business related. His conviction that quality journalism attracts a premium audience and commands a premium price is intractable. Given our growth in paid digital subscriptions, now approaching 75,000, that intractability is not unwarranted. Case in point: the exquisite five-part narrative on the journey of Will Lacey has garnered hundreds of thousands of visits, with thousands upon thousands of people signing up for email updates on the series.

Please join Linda, Brian, and me in thanking Mike for all he’s done. While he’ll no longer be a Globe employee in 2017, he’s assured us this is just a technicality. He will always advocate for our mission and our business, and he will introduce and help his successor acclimate to the Boston community.

Now please join me in welcoming Doug Franklin as Chief Executive Officer of Boston Globe Media Partners and the Boston Globe, starting January 1, 2017. Doug is a seasoned newspaper executive, dedicating much of his career to Cox Media Group Properties and overseeing virtually all aspects of the business while leading change in each role along the way.

Between 2013 and 2015, Doug was Executive Vice President and CFO of Cox Enterprises, the parent company of all Cox businesses including communications, media, and automotive. Cox is an $18 billion company with 50,000 employees. Prior to that, from 2010 to 2013, he rose from EVP to President of Cox Media Group which is comprised of their TV, radio, newspaper, direct mail, and digital operations. Doug has extensive experience as a newspaper publisher, overseeing four Ohio newspapers including the Dayton Daily News from 2004 to 2008, then becoming Publisher of the Palm Beach Post for a short but high-impact stint in 2008, and the Atlanta Journal Constitution until 2010. Doug has experienced virtually every challenge our industry faces todayand succeeded at every turn. As I’ve gotten to know Doug over the past few months, I’ve come to understand that he is fearless, energetic, articulate, and passionate in his desire to help the Globe achieve our long-term goal of creating a sustainable business model for high level journalism.

Doug’s responsibilities at the Globe will include all business aspects, including production as well as the newsroom. He knows that we have made many tough decisions over the past few years, and there are undoubtedly more to come in an industry that is still coming to terms with massive, continuous changes in advertising and delivery—both in print and digitally. We have no choice but to succeed, and we will. This vibrant region depends on it.

Doug has met with members of the leadership team a number of times, and they share my enthusiasm in welcoming him to the Globe. He’ll be moving here from his current home in Sarasota, and given his eagerness to begin, you may see him around the building over the next few weeks.

On Wednesday, December 21, we’re planning a Town Hall meeting at 3 p.m. in the Atrium so Mike can say goodbye and Doug can say hello. Please join us there.

Best,
John

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