McClatchy CEO Gary Pruitt leaving to lead Associated Press

Gary Pruitt, chairman and CEO of the Kansas City Star’s parent company, McClatchy, is leaving the company to become president and CEO of the Associated Press. McClatchy’s CFO Patrick J. Talamantes was named president and CEO of the company. Kevin McClatchy was named chairman of the board that bears his family’s name. The changes will occur May 16.

Pruitt succeeds Tom Curley, who announced he was stepping down in January. Pruitt helped engineer the sale of Knight Ridder Newspapers to McClatchy. He spent nearly 30 years at McClatchy and Knight Ridder, first as general counsel, then as publisher of the Sacramento Bee, rising to president in 1995, CEO in 1996 and chairman in 2000. He’s been on the board of the AP for nine years.

Pruitt, 54, led the parent company of The Bee during one of the most dramatic eras in its history. He engineered the 2006 takeover of Knight Ridder Inc. for $4.4 billion, which effectively tripled the size of the company. The deal made Pruitt something of a superstar in the newspaper business.

But that was followed almost immediately by years of painful downsizing as McClatchy, burdened with debt from the Knight Ridder deal, was confronted with a deep recession and an epic downturn in the traditional news media industry. Thousands of employees were let go and the stock price and profits tumbled. In the past year or so, the company has stabilized. [SacBee]

In a memo obtained by Politico, and posted below, he says “I fully expected to retire with McClatchy.”

Gary B. Pruitt
Chairman, President &
Chief Executive Officer

DATE:  March 21, 2012
TO:  All McClatchy Employees
FROM: Gary Pruitt
SUBJECT: Leadership Transition

I wanted to share with you that I will be leaving McClatchy to become president and chief executive of The Associated Press, where I have been a board member for the last nine years.

The McClatchy Board of Directors has named Pat Talamantes as my successor, effective May 16.  Kevin McClatchy, a director since 1998 and a fifth-generation family member, will become chairman of the Board.  Today’s press release is attached in the accompanying e-mail.

I want you to know McClatchy is in excellent hands.  I have unwavering faith in Pat to lead this company.  He is smart, dedicated and an extremely gifted executive who has served McClatchy well for the past 11 years as vice president, finance and CFO.  In 2011, he assumed additional oversight of McClatchy’s Florida operations, which include The Miami Herald, El Nuevo Herald and the Bradenton Herald.  Pat will continue to work with a senior executive team widely considered among the best in the industry.  Furthermore, the Board of Directors and the McClatchy family remain steadfast in their support of the company’s direction and its future.

I’m delighted to tell you that Kevin becomes the first McClatchy family member to lead the Board since his late uncle Jim McClatchy was chairman from 1989 to 1995.  Some of you know that Kevin is a former owner, CEO and managing general partner of the Pittsburgh Pirates.  Kevin also served on Major League Baseball’s Executive Council. But before his executive career in baseball, Kevin spent nearly a decade working in the newspaper business, including sales positions with The Sacramento Bee, The Newspaper Network and The Miami Herald.  The Board will benefit from Kevin’s leadership and executive experience.

So why am I leaving?

Frankly, I fully expected to retire with McClatchy.  My McClatchy experience, through good times and tough times, has been one of the most rewarding of my life.  And I’ve got to tell you that I’m more optimistic now about McClatchy’s future success than I have been at any time since the “great recession.”  Still, I felt I just couldn’t pass up this opportunity to lead The Associated Press, one of the world’s largest and most respected news  organizations, at such a pivotal time.  McClatchy and AP share many of the same values, foremost among them is the commitment to high-quality journalism.

I want to thank each and every one of you for your hard work and service to McClatchy, particularly during these past few difficult years.  I have had the opportunity to meet many of you, and I have been amazed and inspired by your talent, dedication and ability to innovate and adapt to new technologies and new business realities.  I am honored and humbled to have been your president and CEO.  You have my best wishes for the future.

Thank you.

Press releases: AP | McClatchy

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