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By: Dave Astor

Sales/New Media Exec Will Succeed Him

John McMeel, who cofounded Universal Press Syndicate in 1970 and built it into one of the nation’s three biggest syndicates, is stepping down as president effective Feb. 10.

He will be succeeded by Robert Duffy, 54, Universal’s vice president of sales and director of new media. Also, Lee Salem, 53, is being promoted from vice president and editorial director to executive vice president and editor of the syndicate. Salem will be the first person to hold those two titles since Universal cofounder Jim Andrews died in 1980.

“After 30 years as president, it’s time for a change,” said McMeel, 63, who will remain as chairman and president of Andrews McMeel Universal (AMU) — the syndicate’s parent company. He noted that “change is good” and “we have great leadership” in Duffy and Salem.

McMeel added that he may take “a few more breaks,” but will still work full time doing strategic planning, looking for more synergies between AMU’s divisions, and more. “I’m not retiring,” he said.

“Obviously I have a very difficult act to follow,” Duffy told E&P Interactive, while adding that he’s “thrilled” to be named president. His plans for the syndicate? “I wouldn’t anticipate any sea changes,” replied Duffy, who joined Universal in 1976.

But AMU’s Universal New Media division, which develops and distributes content to online newspapers and Web sites, may soon spin off into a separate company with a separate management structure.

Kansas City-based Universal, the largest independent syndicate, has more than 3,500 newspaper clients worldwide. It distributes features such as “Garfield,” “Doonesbury,” “Cathy,” “FoxTrot,” “Dear Abby,” Roger Ebert’s column, and Pat Oliphant’s editorial cartoons. Universal formerly syndicated “For Better or For Worse” and the now-retired “Calvin and Hobbes” and “The Far Side.”

AMU is a privately held company that reportedly earns more than $100 million in annual revenues. It includes Andrews McMeel Publishing, known for its many best-selling cartoon collections and other books. AMU employs more than 325 people, with nearly 80 of them working mostly for the syndicate.

For more on the Universal changes, see the Jan. 10 “Syndicate World” column on this site and the Jan. 10 issue of Editor & Publisher> magazine.

Dave Astor (>) is associate editor for> Editor & Publisher magazine.

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