Times Company names outgoing BBC director Mark Thompson its C.E.O.

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Mark Thompson. (Steve Bowbrick)
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The New York Times Company has named Mark Thompson, outgoing director-general of the BBC, as its C.E.O., capping off an eight-month search for a new leader.

"Our board unanimously concluded that Mark is exactly the right person to lead The New York Times Company at this particular moment in time," wrote Times Company chairman and interim C.E.O. Arthur Sulzberger Jr. in a memo to staff announcing the news. "He is a highly regarded executive who comes to us from one of the other great global media brands, known for high-quality content and excellence in journalism, the BBC."

Thompson replaces Janet Robinson, who was forced out last December after reportedly clashing with key Times Company executives. He takes the reins during a period of downsizing at the company, which has been selling off assets and consolidating since late last year as it re-focuses around its core newspaper business, including The New York Times, The Boston Globe and The International Herald Tribune.

The 55-year-old will relocate from the U.K. to New York for the job, which he is expected to begin sometime this November, according to a press release. He will also join the Times Company's board of directors.

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“It is a real privilege to be asked to join the Times Company as it embarks on the next chapter in its history,” said Thompson in a statement. “I’m particularly excited to be coming to The New York Times Company as it extends its influence digitally and globally."

In Thompson, the Times Company seems to have found the type of digitally-savvy executive it was said to be looking for since the departure of Robinson, who had championed the Times' watershed transition to a paid digital model but was nonetheless perceived as a convert from the old print-publishing world.

At the BBC, he was credited with developing "innovative new products" and generating "new revenue streams on multiple platforms," according to a Times Company statement, which also touted his supervision of "BBC Worldwide ... a fast-growing media and entertainment company designed to maximize BBC profits by creating, acquiring and developing media content and media brands around the world."

Thompson's appointment came as no surprise to Times watchers, who have been following the C.E.O. search closely. Back in June, The Guardian and other outlets reported that Thompson was in talks about the job.

However, his hiring was announced earlier than some might have expected, following a protracted vetting process that left the Times Company without a permanent captain for the better part of a year.

Just a few weeks ago, Sulzberger told Wall Street analysts on a quarterly earnings call that the Times Company board had made "meaningful progress" on the search. But he offered no further details, saying only that "we expect to have more to share with you before the end of this quarter."

Characterizing the ideal candidate, Sulzberger said on the call: "Our new C.E.O. must have strong business and digital management skills, plus an understanding of the power of brands, and must be able to successfully lead the launch of products that are critical to our future."

You can read Sulzberger's full memo on Thompson below.

Dear Colleagues,

After a thorough search, which gave us the opportunity to meet some of the most thoughtful executives inside and outside of our industry, we have today announced that Mark Thompson, the outgoing Director-General of the BBC, will become our new president and CEO.

Our board unanimously concluded that Mark is exactly the right person to lead The New York Times Company at this particular moment in time. He is a highly regarded executive who comes to us from one of the other great global media brands, known for high-quality content and excellence in journalism, the BBC. And importantly, under Mark’s direction, the BBC also became known as a place of constant innovation. Mark will work closely with the board and with me as we work to extend our own culture of innovation and transformation and as we continue to expand our reach both around the globe and onto new and emerging digital platforms.

Mark is joining an organization where we already have great talent throughout the ranks. His appointment will strengthen our already powerful organization with new ideas and fresh insights.

Mark is in the process of relocating to New York from London, and we expect him to start in November. When he arrives, we will schedule employee town halls, so you will have the opportunity to meet him in person.

Please join me in welcoming Mark to our company.

Arthur