New York Times Chief Janet Robinson to Retire at End of Year

New York Times Co. Chief Executive Officer Janet Robinson will retire on Dec. 31 after seven years of steering the company through a turbulent time for the newspaper industry.

Chairman Arthur Sulzberger Jr. will serve as interim CEO while the company searches for a permanent replacement, New York-based Times Co. said yesterday in statement. Robinson, 61, will step down as a director and be paid $4.5 million as a consultant for one year, according to a company filing.

Times Co. shares have fallen 82 percent since the end of 2004 as Robinson, like her peers in the newspaper industry, grapples with declining advertising and circulation as readers shifted to the Web. She was credited by Sulzberger for stabilizing the balance sheet and leading a shift to digital formats, including charging readers to view stories on the Web.

“The paper is in a much better position at the end of 2011 than 18 months ago,” said Ken Doctor, a media analyst with Outsell Inc. “They managed to get through a very tough period.”

The company lost $31.5 million in the past 12 months, including writedowns of its regional newspapers.

Times Co. shares rose 1.8 percent to $7.53 yesterday in New York, and have declined 23 percent this year.

Pay Wall

This year, the company started charging for digital subscriptions to the New York Times, a cash-generating step also taken by the Chicago Sun-Times that is also being studied by the Los Angeles Times. Times Co. said in July it would pay back $250 million to billionaire Carlos Slim earlier than planned. It had borrowed the money in 2009 as ad sales slumped.

Robinson “has led our continuing transition to a multi-platform company and directed steps that resulted in an improved liquidity position and significant cost reductions,” Sulzberger said in the statement.

He said Robinson, as head of advertising at the Times in 1996, envisioned the plan to expand circulation outside of New York, making the newspaper into a national daily.

“The decision to create a national edition changed the fortunes for the company,” Sulzberger said in a memo to staff. “It took huge courage and vision on Janet’s part to create and to successfully implement our national edition.”

In her memo to staff, Robinson highlighted the more recent period.

“Obviously, the last few years have been tough as, together, we have navigated one of the most difficult periods in publishing history,” she wrote. “It is probably an understatement to say that transitioning from a traditional print journalism model to the digital world has been an enormous challenge.”

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