Sure, the 47-year-old executive's hair has prematurely turned what "Dilbert," a Scripps comic strip, might term "CEO-style silver." But Mr. Boehne's affable, unassuming style belies his standing as No. 2 behind Ken Lowe, 52. Mr. Lowe's rise to president-CEO, after leading Scripps' successful specialty cable networks, was far more expected.
"Rich is a talented media executive with a rare blend of financial acumen and operations experience," says Mr. Lowe. "His quiet but firm leadership has helped foster an entrepreneurial culture."
In appointing Mr. Boehne to his current role, then-CEO/now Chairman William Burleigh cited a strong track career record, including investor relations and service on Scripps' long-range planning committee. Today, Mr. Boehne has day-to-day oversight of all Scripps' operations and spearheads strategic initiatives, which have become increasingly prevalent. In the past year, he led acquisition of a 70% controlling interest in the Shop at Home Network and pilot testing of video-on-demand service to distribute Scripps' archive of how-to programs in 65 markets served by AOL Time Warner's cable system.
Fifteen years before becoming exec VP, Mr. Boehne was a suburban bureau reporter for Scripps' Cincinnati Post. Mr. Boehne came to Scripps' corporate office as communications director two years later, handling its successful initial public offering, and became VP-communications in 1995.
"Dumb luck had a lot to do with it," Mr. Boehne says of his rise up the corporate ladder. But he adds: "I've always had an almost equal love of the content and business sides of media. ... And personally I enjoy risk."
Among his risks-championing the launch of luxury lifestyle network Fine Living in the wake of Sept. 11. Scripps had announced the early 2002 launch before the tragedy. In its aftermath, Mr. Boehne advocated sticking with plans when many urged otherwise.
"Every single recession seems to be followed by a recovery," he says. "So, as always, we bet on the long term."
Despite the timing, Fine Living is beating its distribution timetable, and now reaches 20 million homes. While recession hit Scripps' newspaper and local broadcast revenues, cable revenue rose 23% to $415 million last year on top of a 14% 2001 increase.
The branded content boom seemingly presents more ripe pickings for Fine Living and siblings Home & Garden TV, Food Network and DIY-Do It Yourself Network. But Scripps has refused to sell product placements. One reason, Mr. Boehne says, is that he and the rest of Scripps' senior management come from news backgrounds, where mixing content and ads doesn't wash.
"Our [specialty networks] already are an efficient buy," he says. Product placement, Mr. Boehne says, also creates the prominent presence of old advertisers in programming, which could keep competitors from buying ads on the new video-on-demand service.
Instead, Scripps is trying another unlikely gambit-buying the money-losing Shop at Home network in October with the idea of giving advertisers on its other networks branded segments to sell their wares.