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CEO Zannino to Leave Dow Jones

Murdoch Brings in His Own Executive Team

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Here come Murdoch's men. Dow Jones shareholders haven't even ratified the company's sale to Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. yet, but turnover at the top has begun anyway.
Richard Zannino
Richard Zannino

Dow Jones CEO Richard F. Zannino today said he plans to leave once News Corp. completes its acquisition of the company, and The Wall Street Journal is reporting that News Corp. veteran Les Hinton will succeed him. Mr. Hinton has been executive chairman at News International since 1995 and was previously CEO of News America Publishing, the News Corp. division that houses the New York Post.

WSJ: Crovitz out as publisher
The Journal also reported late this afternoon that L. Gordon Crovtiz, publisher of The Journal since early 2006, would be replaced in that position by Robert Thomson, the top editor at Mr. Murdoch's Times of London. The Journal did not identify its sources. A call to Mr. Crovitz earlier today was referred to a Dow Jones spokesman, but neither Dow Jones nor News Corp. representatives have responded to requests for comment today.

The current CEO's exit, at least, has been officially announced so far. Mr. Zannino, who has been CEO since early last year and was chief operating officer before that, was a chief architect of the $5 billion deal to sell Dow Jones to Rupert Murdoch. He leaves with a severance package of $30 million.

"Dow Jones is about to begin a new chapter," Mr. Zannino said in a statement, confirming an earlier report by Newsweek.com that he would announce his departure this afternoon. "Dow Jones fits perfectly into News Corp., and Rupert and I have been discussing since September my moving on from the company after the closing. I will leave Dow Jones knowing the best is yet to come for readers, customers and employees under Rupert's leadership, given his visionary long-term perspective and willingness to commit substantial talent and resources to further develop its unmatched portfolio of brands on a global scale."

Murdoch's bid
It was during a breakfast with Mr. Murdoch last spring that Mr. Zannino, a former fashion and retail executive, first heard the mogul say he wanted to make a run at buying Dow Jones. The bid he soon made launched a contentious period in which some members of Dow Jones's controlling family, the Bancrofts, argued that Mr. Murdoch would degrade the company and its crown jewel, The Wall Street Journal. In the end enough Bancrofts voted to approve the deal; shareholders will ratify that decision next week.

Mr. Zannino's departure isn't likely to upset the rank and file at Dow Jones, which had never been run by a non-journalist. Those upset with the approaching takeover by Mr. Murdoch are also, of course, incensed with Mr. Zannino for helping make it happen.

In a statement, Mr. Murdoch thanked Mr. Zannino. "I understand Rich's decision to seek new challenges," he said. "During nearly two years as CEO, he proved himself to be an effective leader who revitalized Dow Jones during a time of great change in the industry. Under his leadership, Dow Jones has reinforced its position as the premier provider of business news content and embarked on many new initiatives important to the company's future."
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