Doug Franklin is out as CEO of Boston Globe Media; Vinay Mehra named president

Also published at WGBH News.

Update II: The Globe’s own story cites problems at the Taunton printing plant, so it looks like my speculation may have been on target: “But his [Franklin’s] tenure also saw continued press problems at the newspaper’s new Taunton printing facility, which has been a vexing and expensive headache for a media organization fighting to become financially self-sufficient in an era of declining print advertising. The printing problems pre-date Franklin, who started on Jan. 1.” Pre-date? It was only recently that the Globe began using the Taunton facility exclusively.

Updating: Vinay Mehra, the chief financial officer of Politico and a former executive at WGBH, will become the president and chief financial officer of Boston Globe Media, according to a memo to the staff from publisher and owner John Henry. Henry also says that he and his wife, managing partner Linda Pizzuti Henry, plan to take a more active role. No word on whether a new CEO will be named. The full text:

You’ve seen Doug’s note that he plans to leave the Globe. First, I’m very grateful for Doug’s hard work on behalf of this organization at an especially complex and sensitive time — as we moved from our decades-long home in Dorchester to Exchange Place and Taunton. These are not easy jobs in this industry, and Doug did his with passion, impact, and commitment. We wish Doug well in what will undoubtedly be successful endeavors in the future.

Second, effective immediately, Vinay Mehra will become the president and chief financial officer of the Globe. Vinay has distinguished himself at every stop along his career, most recently at Politico, where he was an active CFO with a strong grasp of the entire business and a commitment to a journalism enterprise supported by novel revenue streams. His prior work at WGBH gave him important insights into the Boston region, where he has always lived while commuting to Washington, and an understanding of the Globe’s vital role in New England.

Third, I will be a more active publisher and Linda will take on more responsibility as we push for financial sustainability in an environment that is extraordinarily challenging for news organizations dedicated to communities where facts and context matter.

This is a great and important news organization, one that is positioned for many more decades of success.

Best,
John

Doug Franklin (via LinkedIn)

Doug we hardly knew ye. Last December, Boston Globe Media named veteran newspaper executive Doug Franklin as chief executive officer to replace Mike Sheehan, who was leaving after three years in charge. Now Franklin is leaving, citing “differences” with owner John Henry over “how to strategically achieve our financial sustainability.”

At this early stage I have no idea what went wrong. I will point out that the Globe has been sending out frequent emails apologizing for late delivery of the print edition since shifting from its old Morrissey Boulevard headquarters to a new plant in Taunton — but I can’t say I know whether that has anything to do with Franklin’s departure.

Here is Franklin’s memo to the staff, two copies of which arrived in my inbox from my sources within the past few minutes.

Globe Team,

You are part of a very special institution in New England, and everyone here should be honored to serve our readers, advertisers, and broader community through our journalism and business offerings. While John Henry and I share similar passion and vision for the Globe, we have our differences how to strategically achieve our financial sustainability. With disappointment, I am resigning from the Globe, effective immediately, and will not be part of your work shaping the Globe’s future.

There are many great things about the Globe and equally many challenges in the industry. Our business will continue to reshape itself, with some areas getting smaller and more efficient while we invest in new technology and products for our future.

I hope that over the past six months I have provided some clarity, honesty and realistic optimism of what you are capable of accomplishing in the coming years. I have truly appreciated the support and our partnership during the brief period in which I was privileged in getting to know you and your work.

I took on this role because I love the newspaper industry, cherish our First Amendment obligations, and value the role of the Globe in the Boston region. It was a big challenge, but I also believed it was a good fit, given my record of successfully turning around newspapers. The Globe is one of the best brands, best newsrooms and most loyal reader subscription businesses in the country. Hard work is ahead for all of you and I know you will successfully navigate the challenges. I wish you the best and thank you.

Doug Franklin
CEO

Correction: This post has been updated to clarify Vinay Mehra’s new position at the Globe.

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Incoming Globe CEO Doug Franklin says he is ‘bullish’ about the future

Doug Franklin, the incoming chief executive officer of the Boston Globe, sent an email to employees earlier this morning. As these things often do, a copy landed in my inbox. Franklin will succeed Mike Sheehan on January 1. The full text of Franklin’s message follows.

Dear Boston Globe Team,

I’m honored to have the opportunity to be part of your very special institution. When I met with John Henry and the senior team, I knew immediately there was a “fit” that would allow us to do great work in the coming years. My career started in newspapers and I’m excited to partner with everyone to build the Globe’s pathway for future success.

There are great foundations in place, including outstanding journalism, a state-of-the-art printing plant in Taunton, new offices on State Street coming soon, important advertiser relationships, a strong digital subscription model with still more potential, and most importantly—you. Your work contributes to the important role the Globe plays in the community every day.

I have a lot to learn from you about the Globe and the Boston community, but there are a few common goals in all media organizations. We need to listen to our market—our readers, audiences and advertisers—and equally important, to those we don’t connect with so we can grow. We need to channel our talented team into a few important strategies that insure the best pathway forward. I believe our best competitive advantage is the incredibly talented staff of Globe.

Given the industry challenges, we have no choice but to move with speed and urgency. We won’t be reckless in our decision-making, but we must be fearless. I, working with the leadership team, will be as transparent, fair and timely as possible about the strategic decisions we make. We are fortunate to be privately held by John Henry, because it allows us flexibility in our approach. But it does not absolve us of the need to sustain ourselves financially. I know you’ve been making difficult decisions already, but we have more tough decisions ahead in terms of deploying our resources and talent toward new, promising strategies so the Globe can serve the Boston community for decades to come.

You will find me accessible; in return, I encourage your honest feedback. I’m a straight shooter with everyone. I will be a champion for the Globe and your work. You will have an aligned senior leadership team next year driving important strategies, and we will communicate regularly with you.

While there are no silver bullets in our business, I’m bullish about our pathway forward. Mobile and social platforms allow us to reach more readers than ever before with your expert storytelling. Our mission is unique: informing, improving and inspiring Boston. Our brand is among the best in the region—and the industry.

Some have asked why I’m returning to a metropolitan news organization. The answer is really pretty simple. I believe your work is important to our democracy and the greater good, now more than ever. John and I are determined to nurture a strategy that will keep the Globe at the center of civic life in New England for the foreseeable future.

Thank you for your hard work and commitment to the Globe. I’m looking forward to meeting everyone in the weeks and months ahead. I also hope you get time this holiday season with your family and friends. It’s important. Get recharged and look ahead to our important work in 2017.

All the best and happy holidays!

Doug

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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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Memo Monday: Globe promotes Pete Doucette

A source just passed this along from Mike Sheehan, the chief executive officer of Boston Globe Media Partners:

In a quiet corner of the third floor, Pete Doucette has spent the past ten years managing every conceivable aspect of our circulation. To say the least, it’s been a challenging task during challenging times. Balancing the science of market data with the art of consumer engagement—and doing so with limited resources—the job he’s done is nothing short of remarkable: we have essentially the same number of paid subscribers as we had five years ago.

Pete helped create the two-site strategy for Boston.com and BostonGlobe.com, and in doing so set us on a path to charge a premium price for premium journalism. We now have over 72,000 digital-only subscribers, which is the No. 1 digital subscription business of any metro daily publisher, and behind only two national publications, the New York Times and the Washington Post. He’s also overseen successful efforts to retain and attract print subscribers who remain an important cornerstone of our business.

Pete will be the first to say that he’s fortunate to have the increasingly relevant and interesting journalism of the Boston Globe to attract subscribers. Thanks to Brian [McGrory], Ellen [Clegg], and everyone in the newsroom for their tireless efforts to create such important work. To demonstrate the relationship between our journalism and our business, digital subscriptions rose 66% in the 10 days following the Presidential election compared with the 10 days prior to the election.

Starting today, Pete will be our Chief Consumer Revenue Officer. While he’ll still oversee our circulation efforts, the product and development teams, led by Anthony Bonfiglio, will report to him. In his new role, he will weave together business strategy, digital strategy, and operations which is a critical step as we continue to aggressively attract new digital subscribers.

If you see Pete, be sure to congratulate him. Or pay him a visit on the third floor. It’s time he got accustomed to it being a little less quiet up there.

Best,
Mike

What we know about the sale of the Boston Globe’s HQ

Update: I was so excited to get a copy of Sheehan’s announcement in my inbox that I didn’t check to see whether the Globe had the story. They did. Here it is.

The Boston Globe has found a buyer for its headquarters at 135 Morrissey Blvd. The announcement was made in an email to the staff Friday night from Mike Sheehan, chief executive of Boston Globe Media Partners. (Thanks, source! You are a prince or princess among men or women.) Here’s Sheehan:

Just wanted you to know that BGMP has entered into an agreement to sell our headquarters at 135 Morrissey Boulevard. We have also entered into a confidentiality agreement with the buyer, so I can offer no details about the transaction at this time. This is just the beginning of the process; I’ll keep you updated as it proceeds.

Have a great weekend.

Mike

I tweeted out the news a little while ago, but it’s raised more questions than answers among people who don’t follow this stuff obsessively. So here’s a bit of background.

1. The Globe‘s editorial and business operations are moving downtown, into rented office space at 53 State St. The target date for the move is January 1, but I’m guessing that will prove to be ambitious.

2. The printing operations are moving to a new facility in Taunton.

3. This is a true fact:

4. In 2013 John Henry bought the Globe, the Worcester Telegram & Gazette, and the Morrissey Boulevard headquarters from the New York Times Company for a total of $70 million. He later sold the T&G for an undisclosed amount that has been estimated at somewhere between $7 million and $19 million. In 2014, the Globe reported that the Morrissey Boulevard property might be worth somewhere between $50 million and $70 million. So it is likely that Henry will have ended up getting the Globe for free. On the other hand, he’s losing money—or, as Globe editor Brian McGrory put it recently in a memo announcing buyouts, “The Globe’s numbers aren’t as good as our words (or photos, videos, and graphics).”

5. As Sheehan wrote, the identity of the new owner of the Morrissey Boulevard property and his intentions are not being announced at this time. So here’s some speculation from me and some sharp observations from Bill Forry, editor of the Dorchester Reporter.

Linda Henry, wife of Globe owner, will oversee Boston.com

Linda Henry. Photo via Twitter.
Linda Henry. Photo via Twitter.

Well, that was fast. Just a day after Boston Globe editor Brian McGrory announced that chief digital guy David Skok would be leaving later this year, two people who will take over some of his duties have been named. One is a real eye-opener: Linda Pizzuti Henry, wife of Globe owner John Henry, who will oversee Boston.com.

The other is Anthony Bonfiglio, currently the executive director of engineering, who’ll be in charge of engineering, development, product, and design.

When I gave a “Rave” to Skok on Beat the Press Friday, host Emily Rooney asked me if Skok’s departure was related to Linda Henry’s elevation. My honest answer is that I have no idea. It’s something I would certainly like to find out.

It’s also not clear how hands-on Linda Henry intends to be. Eleanor Cleverly, the general manager of Boston.com, has gotten good reviews for stabilizing the site after a rocky transition from being the Globe‘s online home to its current incarnation as a free standalone service. And Cleverly will remain.

It’s way too early to assess what this will all mean, but I’ve heard from a number of insiders that Linda Henry is smart and generally a force for good. Still, it’s an unorthodox move.

The Globe still needs a journalist to replace Skok as managing editor for digital (he’s vice president for digital at Boston Globe Media Partners as well). But since Skok isn’t leaving right away, I suppose that can wait.

What follows is a memo from Mike Sheehan, chief executive of BGMP.

I want to let everyone know that Anthony Bonfiglio will now oversee digital operations, including engineering/development, product, and design across all of BGMP.

Anthony joined us two years ago from Visible Measures, where he was VP of Engineering. Since then, his impact has been immense. He oversaw the rollout of agile software development processes and best practices across the product and engineering teams. As a result, we’ve shortened time-to-market from weeks to multiple releases every week across all teams, creating a predictable and transparent development process. Anthony helped transition much of the business to WordPress and has overseen many of our digital redesigns. He was a key contributor in the launch of Stat.

On the business side, Anthony folded creative services developers into the overall engineering organization and greatly increased their productivity. He also successfully assumed management of our ad operations organization during a critical phase and has since transitioned it back to Advertising.

In short, Anthony has proven himself as a leader who can make a very complex organization faster, better, and more agile. He will continue to report to Wade Sendall.

Brian McGrory informed the newsroom yesterday that David Skok has decided to leave the Globe by the end of the year. Regarding David’s boston.com responsibilities, Eleanor Cleverly will continue day-to-day oversight and management of boston.com, but it will now report to Linda Henry in her current role as Managing Director.

I know I join everyone in wishing David Skok nothing but success and happiness in all his future endeavors and in expressing deep gratitude for all he’s done over the past three years. He has been a driving force in the success we’ve experienced on bostonglobe.com and, with Eleanor and her team, was key to stabilizing boston.com over the past six months. As he transitions out, the leadership of Anthony, Eleanor, and Linda will help us continue to be the region’s leading source of journalism that becomes more relevant and interesting by the hour.

Did the Globe just solve its home-delivery problems?

This is huge. The Boston Globe just reported that its previous vendor, Publishers Circulation Fulfillment, is going to handle half the deliveries starting Monday—and possibly as soon as Sunday.

Problem solved? I don’t know. Remember, drivers have been switching from PCF to the new one, ACI Media Group, and it may not be possible to reconstitute the network that previously existed. Still, it’s fair to call this a major step toward solving the home-delivery crisis.

Globe chief executive Mike Sheehan Sheehan predicts “an extremely rapid return to 100 percent deliveries and improved customer service.”

Update: And now Globe publisher John Henry has issued a statement and an apology. As long as the distribution problems are mostly solved in the next few days, this story is winding down.