The waiting game is finally over. Today, Time Warner said former CFO Joseph Ripp will succeed Laura Lang as the CEO of its soon-to-be spun off publishing division Time Inc. He starts in September.
Ripp, currently the CEO of OneSource Information Services, has a long history at Time Inc. and Time Warner. He joined the company in 1985 as assistant comptroller of Time Inc., and eventually became its svp, CFO and treasurer. Subsequently, he was evp, CFO of Time Warner and held executive positions at America Online before leaving the company in 2004.
Ripp went on to hold top roles at pharmaceutical company Dendrite International and newspaper publisher Journal Register Co. before taking the reins of OneSource, a digital marketing and information platform provider.
In a statement, Time Warner CEO and chairman Jeff Bewkes said Ripp was "respected as a strategic leader who has delivered financial results throughout his career, and he also happens to have a thorough understanding of Time Inc.’s business. We have great confidence that Joe will maximize Time Inc.’s iconic brands, scale and industry-leading position to create value for its stockholders.”
Added Ripp: “I’m privileged to have this rare opportunity to lead a company I'm passionate about at such a significant moment in its history and future.”
Following Lang’s announcement that she'd step down as CEO, there was early speculation that Ripp could be a candidate to replace her due to his company ties and financial background, which will be a critical asset as the Time Inc. prepares to spin off into its own publicly traded company, as the chief executive will be charged with selling Wall Street on the new enterprise. However, some wondered if Ripp’s ties to a SEC probe into Time Warner in the early 2000s (Time Warner eventually paid $300 million to settle civil fraud charges alleging that the company had artificially inflated revenue at AOL) could hurt his reputation.
Meanwhile, Bewkes also said today that Howard Averill, the current CFO of Time Inc., will become Time Warner’s new CFO, beginning in January. Averill will succeed current CFO John Martin, who recently accepted the CEO position at Turner Broadcasting Systems Inc. and whose appointment was seen as clearing the way for Time Warner to move forward with the Time Inc. CEO appointment. Averill was one of the triumvirate who ran the company after the firing of Lang predecessor Jack Griffin in early 2011 and was considered the leading internal contender for the Time Inc. CEO position, but when he wasn’t immediately appointed, speculation turned elsewhere.
Time Inc. has struggled to transform its print-centric business model as consumers and advertisers migrate online, and Ripp will likely have some tough decisions ahead of him. It's widely expected that Time Inc. will face more whittling of its staff. As one former colleague saw it, Ripp is the one to do it, a "guys' guy who won't be afraid to make tough decisions." It remains to be seen what Ripp's appointment means for his son, Brendan Ripp, who is vp of sales for Fortune.
Other outside candidates said to be in the running for the top role at Time Inc. were Minneapolis Star Tribune Media Company CEO Mike Klingensmith, a 30-year veteran of the company; and David Pecker, the CEO and chairman of tabloid American Media Inc.