Janet Robinson, C.E.O. of The New York Times Company, to retire

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Janet Robinson. (David Shankbone)
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Janet Robinson, chief executive of The New York Times Company since 2004, will retire on Dec. 31 after nearly three decades working there, the Times announced to the surprise of media observers late Thursday afternoon.

Times Company chairman and Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. will step into the chief executive role on an interim basis while the search for a replacement is underway.

Robinson, meanwhile, who spoke about the Times' digital growth at a UBS media conference just 10 days ago, has agreed to a one-year consulting gig with the company, for which she will reportedly be paid $4.5 million. Her previous titles include chief operating officer and executive vice president, senior vice president of newspaper operations, and president and general manager of The New York Times.

“The New York Times Company has been my home for 28 years and I leave with mixed emotions," said Robinson, 61, in a statement. "I am grateful for the opportunity to have worked with so many outstanding people over the years, and I am particularly proud of my role in helping to navigate through one of the most difficult periods in publishing history as we transitioned from traditional print journalism to the digital world. At the same time, the Company’s course is set and I am excited by new opportunities that await me.”

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Robsinson's exit comes less than a year after the Times launched its paid digital model, which she was influential in developing. It also dovetails with another stunning executive departure, that of longtime digital chief Martin Nisenholtz, who announced in November that he would retire at year's end. (His farewell party was last week.)

In the press release announcing the move, Sulzberger thanked Robinson "for her significant contributions during her career, especially during the challenging years we most recently faced. Among her accomplishments, she has led our continuing transition to a multi-platform company and directed steps that resulted in an improved liquidity position and significant cost reductions. This was achieved during an uneven economic recovery and challenging advertising environment.”

Sulzberger sent out a company-wide memo praising Robinson's "vision and input" in making the Times a "truly national paper" back in the mid-90s.

"The decision to create a national edition changed the fortunes for the Company," he wrote. "It took huge courage and vision on Janet’s part to create and to successfully implement our national edition. We will always be in her debt for her leadership and her commitment to the long-term success of our Company."

Sulzberger's memo also included a note to staff from Robinson, which you can read below:

Dear Colleagues,

It is with mixed emotions that I write to let you know that I am retiring from The New York Times Company at the end of the month. The Company has been my home for 28 years and I am grateful to have had the opportunity to work with so many outstanding professionals over the years. At the same time, the Company’s course is set and I am excited by new opportunities that await me.

Obviously, the last few years have been tough as, together, we have navigated one of the most difficult periods in publishing history. It is probably an understatement to say that transitioning from a traditional print journalism model to the digital world has been an enormous challenge. Fortunately, thanks to a tremendous amount of hard work by many people, The New York Times Company is succeeding. Our balance sheet is strong, and we have a solid business plan and successful digital strategy in place that should serve the Company well for many years into the future. I know that I am leaving the Company in the best position possible.

I want to take this opportunity to thank the Sulzberger family and the Board of Directors for the opportunities they have afforded me. I also would especially like to thank all of my colleagues for their unstinting support and hard work over the years. I will be forever appreciative.

Best wishes to all for a happy and healthy holiday season.

Sincerely,

Janet