Torstar Chief Executive Holland Steps Down as Revenue Slumps

  • Hollands ends 30-year career at Toronto Star Publisher
  • Torstar has posted four straight years of falling revenue

David Holland, president and chief executive officer of Torstar Corp., will step down this fall, becoming the second senior executive this year to leave the publisher of Canada’s biggest daily newspaper.

Torstar hasn’t announced a replacement for Holland, 58, who served as CEO since 2007, according to a statement Wednesday from the Toronto-based company. Holland also serves as interim publisher after former publisher John Cruickshank departed in May. Torstar is looking for someone to fill both positions by late fall, said Bob Hepburn, a company spokesperson.

The publisher of the Toronto Star and other papers has posted four straight years of declining revenue as readers and advertisers shift to digital products. Torstar posted a C$235 million ($179 million) fourth-quarter loss largely due to writedowns on the value of its newspaper properties.

"The business landscape has continued to evolve rapidly and I am very proud of the efforts made and underway across the company to adapt to that changing environment," Holland said in the statement.

The company began its push into digital operations last year with the launch of its Star-Touch tablet app and the purchase of a 56 percent stake in digital media company VerticalScope. Revenue from digital ventures accounted for 9 percent of the company’s total revenue in the first quarter this year, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Torstar expects to break even on its tablet experiment by 2017 despite slower than anticipated audience growth, Holland said in a conference call in March.

"Although there is certainly some value in Torstar’s stable of assets, the cash burn is concerning and visibility is extremely limited," Bentley Cross, analyst at TD Securities, wrote in a note in May. There will be some improvement as the VerticalScope acquisition becomes a greater part of the asset base later this year, he said. He expects another dividend cut before then after the company announced a 50 percent cut in November last year.

Torstar fell 3 percent to C$1.62 at 11 a.m. on the Toronto Stock Exchange. The shares have plunged 42 percent this year, cutting its market value to C$131 million from C$1.48 billion in 2007.

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