CNHI PRESIDENT RESIGNS, COMPANY SAYS

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By: Lucia Moses

Martin Acknowledges Differences With Investor

Community Newspaper Holdings Inc. (CNHI) announced Nov. 15 that president and CEO Ralph J. Martin, who built the company from scratch to the nation’s biggest newspaper company in terms of number of dailies in two years, resigned Nov. 12.

Under Martin, the Birmingham, Ala.-based chain had amassed 95 small dailies and 100 paid weeklies mainly in the South and Midwest. His departure comes three weeks after he announced the company, after a digestion period following a big acquisition spree, was going to get back into the buying business.

CNHI’s strategy has been to achieve economies of scale by creating geographic clusters of small-town newspapers, with Martin targeting a 29% profit margin while stressing local control.

CNHI, a $1.3 billion company, is funded by the Retirement Systems of Alabama (RSA), RSA, a $22 billion investment fund, controls a majority of CNHI’s shares.

Martin has acknowledged differences between him and CNHI’s financial backer. In a recent speech at the Inland Press Association, Martin allowed his expansion plans might not be in RSA’s long-
term interest. He also acknowledged RSA and CNHI didn’t see eye-to-eye on CNHI’s purchase of options on radio stations with the expectation that the federal ban on cross-
ownership of radio by newspapers would be lifted.

CNHI’s rapid-fire growth pace has led some industry observers to wonder if the group had the management expertise to handle the expansion. Some have also contended Martin has overpaid for his papers, an assertation Martin has disputed.

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Lucia Moses (luciam@mediainfo.com) is an associate editor for Editor & Publisher magazine.






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