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Posted by: Tom Lowry on November 24, 2009
John A. Byrne, for years one of BusinessWeek’s most prolific writers and later one its most admired editors, is leaving the magazine to launch his own digital media company.
Byrne, 56, an executive editor and editor-in-chief of BusinessWeek.com, said he will officially step down when the sale of the magazine to Bloomberg is completed, as expected, on Dec. 1. (see Byrne’s full memo to staff below). In two separate stints, Byrne spent 22 years at the magazine. In between, he served as editor-in-chief of Fast Company magazine from 2003 to 2005.
He will be re-locating to the San Francisco area. Byrne was recently married to Kate Rodler, who resides in Marin County. Byrne did not elaborate on what kind of media company he was interested in launching, or whether he had any financial backers.
During his tenure as a writer at BusinessWeek, Byrne penned a record 58 cover stories while also authoring eight books. His last book was a collaboration with GE Chairman Jack Welch, Jack: Straight From The Gut. Former BusinessWeek Editor-in-Chief Steve Shepard once jokingly referred to Byrne as Johann Sebastian Byrne because of the substantive body of work he created while at the magazine. Byrne also earned a reputation as a patient mentor over the years to lots of young BusinessWeek staffers.
Byrne was instrumental in launching BusinessWeek’s Best Business Schools rankings, and as executive editor, he and his team created three additional annual franchises, including the highly successful Customer Service Champions and the Best Places to Launch a Career. In addition, Byrne recruited to the magazine such weekly columnists as Jack and Suzy Welch, Maria Bartiromo, and renowned wine critic Robert Parker.
Under his leadership of BusinessWeek’s web operations, which he assumed in 2007, traffic and user engagement, with monthly unique visitors has risen by 40% to 10.4 million (more than twice the size of the magazine’s audience). Under his leadership, BW.com has won two consecutive National Magazine Awards. What’s more, Byrne was inducted last year by Media Industry News into the Digital Hall of Fame and this year min named him one of 21 “Superstars of Social Media.” Byrne has nearly 18,000 followers on Twitter, under the handle JOHNABYRNE.
“John brought his prodigious energy, credibility, and creativity to BusinessWeek.com after a stellar, award-winning career in print and truly outdid himself,” says Stephen J. Adler, editor-in-chief of BusinessWeek who will be leaving the magazine as well on Dec. 1. “He leaves as one of the most exciting innovators in the entire digital world, and I’m eagerly awaiting his next venture.”
Not to be overlooked is Byrne’s tireless support of the BusinessWeek softball team, which has appeared in all three championship games of the New York Media Softball League, which was formed in 2007. BW captured the crown in 2008 after a record-breaking undefeated streak.
Friends & Colleagues:
After spending 22 years of my professional life at BusinessWeek, I’ve decided to move on when Bloomberg becomes its new owner next week.
I’ve had a wondrous journey here, from the day in 1985 when Steve Shepard hired me as management editor to the day Steve Adler invited me back in 2005. I came of age as a journalist and editor under Steve I and will forever be grateful to him for the chance to write big impact cover stories and take far too many book leaves. I’m especially thankful to Steve II for giving me two very big opportunities: To return to my professional home to help run the magazine as executive editor, and to later take charge of our digital operations as editor-in-chief of BusinessWeek.com.
The latter was an especially transformative job for me. I’ve become a passionate advocate of digital journalism. So it will come as little surprise that I will be planning to launch a new digital media company based near San Francisco to explore the future. I’m flattered and thankful that Bloomberg provided me an opportunity to stay with BusinessWeek, but my passion to chase this entrepreneurial venture feels like the right move at this stage in my career.
For me, BusinessWeek has been far more than a mere employer. It’s been a close personal friend. That’s largely true because of the highly talented people I’ve been able to work with and learn from over these 22 years. I thank every editor who made me look and read better than I ever was. I thank every colleague who helped to shape my ideas and thoughts. I thank every friend who lent me support and encouragement through both the good and the hard times.
I offer a special thanks to Zulma Chamorro, my assistant, who always tried to keep me on time but rarely succeeded. I’ve greatly appreciated her commitment and diligence to both me and the entire online team. I also want to single out the two managing editors I’ve worked closely with at the magazine and online: Ciro Scotti and Martin Keohan. Their devotion, intelligence and integrity will stay with me forever.
I wish Bloomberg great success with BusinessWeek. Norm Pearlstine and the rest of the Bloomberg team will bring lots of new ideas and new resources to BW that makes me excited about the brand’s future. I’ll be its biggest cheerleader from afar.
It has been a privilege and an honor to work with all of you. Let’s keep in touch.
The media, entertainment and marketing worlds continue to shapeshift on a near-daily basis, as new forms arise and old assumptions erode. Where is it all going? No one really knows. But on this blog BusinessWeek’s media writers Tom Lowry and Ron Grover promise to provide ample helpings of scoop, provocation, and sharp analysis as they track and annotate this constantly changing terrain.