Wall Street Journal Exec Says He's Starting a Company with Ashton Kutcher

Among Two Staff Departures This Month

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Brad Westbrook, chief digital sales officer at The Wall Street Journal, is leaving the company.
Brad Westbrook, chief digital sales officer at The Wall Street Journal, is leaving the company.

Two Wall Street Journal executives are leaving the company this month, including Chief Digital Sales Officer Brad Westbrook. In an email to Ad Age confirming word of his departure, Mr. Westbrook said he is "starting a new media company" with actor and investor Ashton Kutcher, but declined to provide more details.

Mr. Kutcher stars on the CBS sitcom "Two And A Half Men," and Forbes magazine ranked him as the highest-paid TV actor this year, but he is also a high-profile venture capitalist, with investments in Skype, Foursquare and Airbnb.

A spokeswoman for Mr. Kutcher said she was not aware of the new company.

(UPDATE: The spokewoman later said in an email that Mr. Westbrook is joining a startup co-founded by Mr. Kutcher called A+. Mr. Westbrook will be chief revenue officer, she said. "A+ is a platform that leverages viral, social stories to create positive change in the world," an entry on AngelList says. "We aspire to make our readers feel differently about themselves and their communities, and to inspire them to action.")

Mr. Westbrook joined The Wall Street Journal in 2011 and has served in several roles, including director of The Wall Street Journal Digital Network, which encompassed WSJ.com, WSJ Live, MarketWatch and All Things Digital, the website led by Kara Swisher and Walt Mossberg that became Re/Code and now operates independently of the Journal. He was named chief digital sales officer just in January and reported to Romy Newman, head of digital advertising at The Wall Street Journal.

Mr. Westbrook's last day is Friday. No successor has been named.

Also leaving is Kelly Leach, publisher of The Wall Street Journal Europe and managing director of Europe, the Middle East and Africa. She is exiting at the end of the month, according to an internal memo sent Aug. 11 by William Lewis, CEO at Journal parent Dow Jones. She was responsible for managing the Journal's businesses in the regions, the memo said.

Ms. Leach did not respond to an email from Ad Age.

During her more than 11-year tenure at the company, Ms. Leach previously served as general manager of The Wall Street Journal in the U.S., which included oversight of the rollout of WSJ. Magazine and the Greater New York section and the expansion of WSJ Weekend. She took on her current role in June 2012.

Ms. Leach "helped grow the Journal's market share and enhance its leadership position," Mr. Lewis said in his memo.

Katie Vanneck-Smith, chief customer officer and global managing director for international, will "take on Kelly's responsibilities in the interim," he added.

A spokeswoman for the Journal declined to comment.

Like nearly all newspapers, The Wall Street Journal is trying to bolster it digital ad revenue to make up for print declines . News Corp., the Journal's parent company, reported revenue of $1.5 billion for its news and information services business, which includes Dow Jones, in the three months ending June 30. That marks a 6% drop compared with the same period last year. Fueling the slide was a 9% decline in advertising sales and a 4% decilne in circulation revenue, the company said.

News and information generates the bulk of the company's revenue. News Corp.'s overall revenue declined 3% to nearly $2.2 billion during the quarter.

Last year, News Corp. was spun off from the more profitable film and TV company 21st Century Fox.

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