By: DOROTHY GIOBBE
NEW YORK TIMES Co. president and COO Lance R. Primis unexpectedly resigned from the company last week, putting an end to speculation that he would be the first outsider to someday run the family-owned empire.
Times Co. chairman Arthur O. “Punch” Sulzberger announced Primis’ departure on Friday, Sept. 20. In a statement, Sulzberger said, “Lance wanted to be free to seek a more certain opportunity to run an enterprise and thought it would be appropriate to relinquish his responsibilities.”
Primis’ resignation was prompted in part by Sulzberger’s refusal to assure him of someday taking over the company, according to the Times. Primis will remain at the company as a consultant until the end of the year. He was named president four years ago.
Russell T. Lewis, president and general manager of the New York Times since 1993, was named to replace Primis.
Primis, 50, started at the company in 1969 selling classified ads. Recently, he made no effort to hide his ambition to someday succeed Sulzberger as chairman of the Times Co. He would have been the first non-family member to run the 100-year-old company.
The Wall Street Journal reported that Primis did not get along well with editorial managers at the company, and he clashed with Sulzberger over personal style. He also did not have a close relationship with Arthur Sulzberger Jr., the 44-year-old publisher of the Times.
With Primis’ resignation, Sulzberger Jr. is the most likely successor to his father, who is 70. A Times Co. spokeswoman said the elder Sulzberger has no plans to retire.
“Punch Sulzberger is chairman of this company and he is going to be for some time ? and it’s years, though I don’t know if it’s two, five, or 10 years,” said Diane Baker, CFO of the company, in an interview with the Times. “Lance did a terrific job. But the partnership between them did not jell in a way that Punch felt was going to work in the long term.”
An unnamed Times Co. executive told the Journal, “Lance
is ready to run a business, but that
is not a practical ambition at the New York Times.”
Lewis, 49, joined the Times in 1966 as a copy boy and worked his way up the ranks. After earning a law degree, he rejoined the newspaper in 1977 as a staff attorney. Lewis reportedly gets along well with Sulzberger Jr. Additionally, he is said not to aspire to chairmanship of the company.
His new responsibilities will include overseeing the operations of the Times, Boston Globe, 21 smaller newspapers, nine magazines, eight television stations, and two radio stations.
Lewis said, “I am tremendously excited about the challenges of this job. . . . We have the best brand names in the news and information business.”
Lewis will be replaced by Janet L. Robinson, who had been senior vice president for advertising. Robinson will be succeeded by Daniel H. Cohen, who had been vice president for advertising since 1995.
?( Lewis) [Caption]