Mark Thompson, the outgoing head of the BBC, is set to become the next CEO of the New York Times, the paper announced Tuesday.
Thompson will begin his new role in November. He fills a vacancy left by Janet Robinson, who was ousted in December of 2011. (The fissures between Robinson and Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger, and the huge buyout Robinson received, became points of contention within the paper.)
"The New York Times is one of the world's greatest news providers and a media brand of immense future potential both in the U.S. and around the world," Thompson said in a statement. "It is a real privilege to be asked to join the Times Company as it embarks on the next chapter in its history."
Thompson, whose name had been in contention since late June, has no newspaper or print media background. Instead, he has spent almost his entire career at the BBC, climbing the ladder until he became Director-General in 2004. Since then, he has overseen an organizational expansion, adding multiple digital television and radio stations. (He also has the dubious distinction of having bit a colleague on the arm once.) Media watchers pointed to this as a sign of the Times' desire to more firmly enter the multimedia age.
But Thompson is also moving from an organization with a perpetually guaranteed source of income — the BBC license fee — to one that finds itself on much shakier fiscal ground. The Times lost $88 million in its last financial quarter, and it is operating in an industry that has still not discovered a long-term business model to offset the terminal decline of print. There's also a considerable amount of labor strife at the paper.
Below, read the memo sent to staff by Arthur Sulzberger Jr., publisher of the New York Times, and obtained by The Huffington Post:
Dear Colleagues, After a thorough search, which gave us the opportunity to meet some of the most thoughtful executives inside and outside of our industry, we have today announced that Mark Thompson, the outgoing Director-General of the BBC, will become our new president and CEO.
Our board unanimously concluded that Mark is exactly the right person to lead The New York Times Company at this particular moment in time. He is a highly regarded executive who comes to us from one of the other great global media brands, known for high-quality content and excellence in journalism, the BBC. And importantly, under Mark's direction, the BBC also became known as a place of constant innovation. Mark will work closely with the board and with me as we work to extend our own culture of innovation and transformation and as we continue to expand our reach both around the globe and onto new and emerging digital platforms.
Mark is joining an organization where we already have great talent throughout the ranks. His appointment will strengthen our already powerful organization with new ideas and fresh insights.
Mark is in the process of relocating to New York from London, and we expect him to start in November. When he arrives, we will schedule employee town halls, so you will have the opportunity to meet him in person.
Please join me in welcoming Mark to our company.
Jill Abramson, executive editor
Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Jr., publisher
Mark Thompson, CEO
Dean Baquet, managing editor
David Leonhardt, Washington bureau chief
Bill Keller, columnist and former executive editor
Andrew Rosenthal, editorial page editor
Paul Krugman, columnist
Thomas Friedman, columnist
Maureen Dowd, columnist
James Risen, Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter
David Brooks, columnist
Gail Collins (center), columnist
Frank Bruni, columnist
Nicholas Kristof, columnist
Charles Blow, columnist
Joe Nocera, columnist
Bill Cunningham, fashion photographer
Cathy Horyn, fashion critic
Mark Bittman, food columnist
Leah Finnegan, news assistant, Op-Ed/Sunday Review