Gordon T. Hughes II announced last month that he plans to leave his post as president-CEO of American Business Media in July. Hughes joined the association in 1994 and has led it through an era of momentous change. He said he plans to return to the entertainment industry and form a production company. Prior to joining ABM, he worked for CBS.
A search for Hughes' successor is under way, but it may prove difficult, given the tough times facing business media and the association itself, which has cut staff and slashed its budget during the recession.
“As to a successor, ABM needs to find somebody to help members survive in these troubled waters,” said Frank Anton, CEO of Hanley Wood and a former chairman of ABM. “Somebody with recent responsibility for revenue. Somebody with electronic media experience. Somebody diplomatic enough to reconcile the different service needs of big and small companies. Somebody used to operating successfully on a shoestring budget. In short, somebody who's smart, energetic and optimistic—if there are any optimists left in the media world.”
Anton is a member of the search committee ABM has assembled to look for Hughes' successor. Other members are: Gary Fitzgerald, CEO of Meister Media; Glenn Goldberg, president of information and media at McGraw-Hill Cos.; Anthea Stratigos, CEO of Outsell; Rex Hammock, CEO of Hammock Inc.; and Charles McCurdy, CEO of Canon Communications.
Rance Crain, president of Crain Communications Inc., which publishes BtoB, 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 out how to get more revenue from both readers and other sources.”
Tom Kemp, CEO of Northstar Travel Media, said: “In the best of times, running an association is kind of thankless. You have too many people who have their own agendas. It's tough to keep everyone happy.” He said it will be even more difficult given the current economic conditions that member companies face.
The next leader will also have the tough task of following Hughes, who has been widely praised for his work at the helm of ABM. He joined what was then American Business Press as executive director and has helped transform it from a trade publishing association to a broad media organization whose members reach their audiences in print, online and in person. The organization's adoption of its current name in 2000 underscored that transformation. —S.C.