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Dow Jones: Rich Zannino In . . .

Posted by: Jon Fine on January 3, 2006

… Peter Kann and Karen Elliott House out.

We have the first big media news of ‘06: the husband-and-wife duo who’ve long helmed Dow Jones and the Journal no longer will. House sticking around for a bit to help with the transition; Kann retains title of Chairman.

Kann had long thought House should succeed him as CEO. (He would have been forced to retire a the end of ‘07.) New York Times reports that the board did not share this opinion.

Some quick thoughts.

1. Potential internal candidates for promotions: WSJ Chief Strategy Officer Scott Schulman, and Dow Jones’ President of Electronic Publishing Gordon Crovitz.

The company is putting out some slightly tortured language about the replacement of Karen Elliott House. Ad Age reports:

As for Ms. Elliott House’s replacement, a spokeswoman said her post will be redefined.

“Karen’s role will not be filled in its current form. Rich will be working with the board and other top management on the future structure,” a Dow Jones spokeswoman said in an email. “It is likely that the role of a standalone print publisher will be diminished going forward. This is not meant to diminish the importance — at all — of the print Wall Street Journal going forward. It remains the biggest driver of our success.”

Note the careful wording: “future structure” … “the role of a standalone print publisher .”

Look for Dow Jones to knit and the print Journal together much more closely—and have one exec in an uber-brand-manager role overseeing all of it. Don’t look for this to happen right away, though. Zannino doesn’t start as CEO until February.

(The AP’s Seth Sutel got Zannino to say as much.)

2. Press stories about Dow Jones can now shift from focusing on the husband and wife team of Kann and House and the many colorful things people say about them, on and off the record. As such, the big stories written about Dow Jones from here on out will focus even more heavily on one theme: Who will buy Dow Jones?

3. Zannino is the first non-journalist CEO at Dow Jones. This fact will get a lot of attention, even though it’s the sort of thing only journalists care about. It’s also not especially relevant to anything. There’s tons of ex-journalists in high positions at newspaper companies who’ve proven no strangers to serious cost-cutting, like MediaNews Group’s W. Dean Singleton and Knight Ridder’s Tony Ridder.

4. Deal geeks will now start to whisper if a deal for Dow Jones’ Ottaway Newspapers chain of community papers will be put up for sale.

5. Wall Street totally hearts the news: As of noon, Dow Jones stock up a hair under 7%.
Make that over 10%.
UPDATE, 1/4: The stock jump also has something to do with the improving results Dow Jones—interestingly enough—in the Zannino announcement (go to the fourth paragraph herein). Now we’ll never know what jump comes from better financials and what comes from the management change.



The media world continues to shapeshift as new forms arise and old assumptions erode. On this blog, Bloomberg Businessweek will provide sharp analysis and timely reports on the transformation of this constantly changing terrain.



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