Hughes has led ABM for 16 years as the business media industry has been transformed by the Internet. Hughes said he plans to return to the entertainment industry and form a production company. Prior to joining ABM, Hughes worked for CBS in the television industry.
“I think Gordon Hughes was a great choice at the time, and he really handled the association through some rather dramatic changes in marketing and the transformation of b-to-b,” said Keith Crain, chairman of Crain Communications Inc., publisher of BtoB.
Hughes said in a statement: “I am extremely proud of my 16 years in this industry. I am delighted to have served with so many wonderful people on the ABM staff. I am also thrilled to have served with so many industry giants. Over the years I am pleased to have overseen the diverse and evolving membership of ABM.”
Hughes joined what was then American Business Press in 1994 as its executive director and was instrumental in a number of changes at the organization. He helped transform it from a trade publishing association to a broad media organization whose members reached their audiences in print, online and in person. The organization's adoption of its current name in 2000 underscored that transformation.
“Gordon has done a remarkable job in transforming the association to meet the needs of the industry and will be leaving, as his legacy, an organization that provides crucial support to the interests and success of business-to-business companies globally. Our next leader will be standing on the shoulders of Gordon's many accomplishments,” Peggy Walker, current ABM chairwoman and COO of Vance Publishing Corp., said in a statement.
In addition to changing the organization so that its members were better equipped to deal with the changes bombarding the industry over the past decade, Hughes led a transformation of ABM itself. He helped usher in an era of associate members (in addition to the media members) that helped fill the organization's coffers. “I remember our first sponsor of the spring meeting paid $35,000 [in the mid-1990s],” Hughes said in an interview. “That eventually became a $2 million event.”
Some members, however, complained that the presence of printing and Internet technology salespeople changed the tenor of the organization and lessened peer-to-peer communication.
Hughes also helped develop the Creative Excellence in Business Advertising Awards, the Timothy White Award for editorial courage and a new strategic plan introduced in late 2009 that attempts to align ABM with other media and marketing associations.
Like most executives associated with the b-to-b media sector, Hughes has had to cut staff and slash budgets in the past year. His current contract is set to expire this summer. “My guess is it was just time for him,” Crain said.
“I love this business,” Hughes said. “I stayed in it for a long time, and I loved every minute of it.”
The ABM is putting together a search committee to find Hughes' replacement. Rance Crain, president of Crain Communications, said, "I think the kind of guy an association like ABM needs is a guy who understands that the world does not revolve around advertising anymore, a guy who can figure how to get more revenue from both readers and other sources."