McClatchy named a new president and chief executive officer Wednesday, appointing tech-savvy entrepreneur and former journalist Craig Forman to replace Pat Talamantes as the Sacramento media company seeks to ramp up its digital operations.
The move ends Talamantes’ four-year tenure as CEO, in which The Sacramento Bee’s parent struggled with declining revenue and profits, amid the transition to a digitally focused media landscape.
Forman, 55, a private investor who lives in San Francisco, has been a McClatchy board member since 2013 and brings an extensive background in journalism and digital media. He has been an executive with such companies as Earthlink, Yahoo, Dow Jones and Time Warner, and was chairman of a mobile-advertising company that was acquired by eBay in 2011. He is a former Wall Street Journal foreign correspondent and bureau chief, with stints in London and Tokyo.
“Craig is a clear-eyed realist, but also an optimist, and he has the energy we need to drive us forward,” said McClatchy Chairman Kevin McClatchy in a press release. “I’ve worked closely with Craig on the board, and he has played an instrumental role in guiding the board and focusing our digital transformation.”
In an interview, Forman said McClatchy has made considerable headway in embracing digital media but needs to move more quickly. “We’ve already transitioned in many respects to the foundations of that digital future,” he said. “My goal here is collaborating in accelerating that transformation. ... The thing we have to work on is our pace.”
Asked about the future of the print business, he said: “I don’t see a world, and I don’t think we see a world, where the (print) industry ... doesn’t exist. But I think we have to recognize that growth there hasn’t occurred for many years, and we have to be very mindful of our allocation of resources.”
Talamantes, the company’s former chief financial officer and a 15-year McClatchy veteran, took over as CEO in 2012. The company, which owns 29 daily papers, was already reeling from several years of declining revenue and profit as newspapers and other traditional media lost business to internet companies.
Talamantes couldn’t be reached for comment.
On his watch, McClatchy was unable to arrest the revenue and profit downturn even as it made extensive investments in digital products. Although digital revenue has grown, it hasn’t risen quickly enough to offset continued declines in print. At the same time, McClatchy has had to wrestle with a substantial debt load left over from the company’s 2006 takeover of Knight Ridder, a move engineered by Talamantes’ predecessor, Gary Pruitt. The debt was $906 million at the end of the third quarter of 2016.
“Pat led our company through turbulent times and, because of his great efforts, we are coming off a year of strong growth in audience and digital advertising revenue,” Kevin McClatchy said in the release. “Pat has well positioned the company for the future and was specifically instrumental in preparing for this next chapter.”
For the first nine months of last year, McClatchy reported a net loss of $37 million, including some non-cash expenses, on revenue of $714.9 million. Revenue fell 7 percent. Fourth-quarter results will be released Feb. 9.