By: Lucia Moses
Freedom Communications, whose flagship newspaper is The Orange County (Calif.) Register, picked the head of its magazine group as its fifth CEO, effective Oct. 1. Sam Wolgemuth, 56, succeeds James Rosse, 67, who has said he would retire seven years after taking the job in 1992.
Wolgemuth says he expects to name his replacement at the magazine division by the end of the year.
Freedom chairman Dave Threshie cited Wolgemuth’s growth of the magazine division, which represented about 11.4% of the company’s revenues in 1998, and praised Rosse for growing revenues and diversifying the company.
Before coming to Freedom, Rosse spent 26 years at Stanford University. During that time, he built a newspaper consulting practice.
In his four years as president of Freedom Magazines, Wolgemuth built the division from three titles to 20. He spent most of his career on the business side, running magazines at Simon & Schuster, Reed International, and McGraw-Hill.
Wolgemuth will be the first Freedom CEO with no background in newspapers, which represent roughly 70% of the company’s revenues. He says he’ll make up for this gap by leaning on other senior executives. “At Freedom, there are things that are more important than industry experience,” such as sharing company values, and autonomy, he says.
Privately held, Freedom posted 10% revenue growth annually over the past five years, largely due to TV acquisitions. Wolgemuth says with the high prices of media and the company’s limits in assuming debt, he expects future growth to come from improving existing properties and additional Internet and magazine partnerships. “We want to be very prudent about the debt we want to take on.”
In addition to the Register and the magazines, Irvine, Calif.-based Freedom owns 26 dailies and eight TV stations. The company’s revenues topped $700 million in 1998.
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