Knight Ridder Re-Org May Shake Up CEO Candidates

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By: Jennifer Saba

Yesterday’s announcement that Knight Ridder reorganized its senior management structure caught some in the investment community off guard.

Though the press release naming Art Brisbane and Hilary Schneider senior vice presidents of the newspaper division seemed innocuous enough, it called into question the role of Steve Rossi — the president of the newspaper division–in the organization, according to a report released by Merrill Lynch today.

Rossi, who was appointed CFO yesterday, has been considered Tony Ridder’s heir apparent since 2001, when he was first named president of the newspaper division.

Merrill Lynch issued a note today saying that the investment company did not expect the latest changes, which suggest to them that Brisbane and Schneider “are being groomed to succeed Ridder.” Rossi’s appointment as CFO implies he’s better suited to run the financial end of things and could be out of the running to take over as CEO, according to Merrill Lynch.

Calls to Knight Ridder were not returned by this afternoon.

Merrill Lynch also called into question the role of Gary Effron, the former CFO of the company. The investment firm thinks he will stay at Knight Ridder in some financial capacity.

It’s also expected that Tony Ridder will remain at the head of the company for some time in order to best decide the future CEO.

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