New York Times recruits BBC chief
THE NEW York Times company has appointed outgoing BBC director general Mark Thompson as its next chief executive.
Mr Thompson (55), who in March announced his intention to step down as director general after the Olympics, replaces Janet Robinson (62), who left the paper last December.
Mr Thompson, who has not previously worked in the newspaper industry, will take up his new role in November. He will report to the chairman of the group, Arthur Sulzberger jnr.
“Our board concluded that Mark’s experience and his accomplishments at the BBC made him the ideal candidate to lead the Times Co at this moment in time when we are highly focused on growing our business through digital and global expansion,” Mr Sulzberger said in the statement.
The newspaper group is looking to Mr Thompson, who joined the BBC as a production trainee in 1979, to reignite sales growth and accelerate expansion in its digital business both at its namesake paper and at the Boston Globe.
Subscription and advertising income from its online business have not yet risen enough to offset shrinking revenue from its print operation.
Under Mr Thompson’s reign, the BBC slashed jobs, moved some production out of London, intensified its digital activities and encouraged a free rein at its commercial arm, BBC Worldwide. Faced with a freeze in its licence fee funding, the organisation has undergone spending cuts of more than £1 billion since 2008.
During his tenure, Mr Thompson also successfully avoided the kind of political clashes that prompted the departure of his predecessor, Greg Dyke, who resigned in 2004 after the Hutton inquiry criticised the BBC’s reporting of the Labour government’s dossier on Iraq.
While at the public service broadcaster, Mr Thompson also faced hostility from News Corporation, most notably in 2009 when James Murdoch used a high-profile lecture to accuse the BBC of conducting a “chilling” land grab of the media sector.
There will be no escape for Mr Thompson from the Murdoch empire, however, as the New York Times competes with News Corp’s Wall Street Journal.
The incoming director general of the BBC, George Entwistle, is formally due to take over from Mr Thompson next month.