Steven Swartz to Succeed Frank Bennack as CEO of Hearst Corp.

He'll be only seventh chief executive at the company

Steven Swartz was named the new CEO of Hearst Corp., succeeding Frank Bennack.

This is an orderly transition at a private company that's known for its stability and buttoned-up culture. Swartz, 51, has been groomed for the role, having been named COO in 2011 and adding the title of president in December. A vet of the print side, he became evp of Hearst’s newspaper division in 2001, having been president and CEO of SmartMoney, then a joint venture between Hearst and Dow Jones & Co. As CEO, he’ll oversee a diversified media empire that encompasses not only 15 daily newspapers and leading consumers magazines including Cosmopolitan and Good Housekeeping but 29 TV stations and ownership in cable networks including A&E and ESPN. His new appointment takes effect June 1.

Swartz will become only the seventh CEO in the 126-year history of Hearst, a company that’s had stable leadership against a backdrop of upheaval for the media industry and in contrast to such peers as Time Inc., which is preparing to spin off from Time Warner and replace its CEO; and Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, which ditched its CEO of six months in December. The man Swartz replaces, Bennack, 80, has been with the company for 50 years, serving as its CEO for 28 years, longer than any of his predecessors except for William Randolph Hearst. Bennack will remain on the board as executive vice chairman and chair of its executive committee.

Here’s the text of Bennack’s note to employees announcing the change in leadership:

Dear Colleagues:

Today, I want to share some important news about the future leadership of our company.

After a combined 28 years leading this great organization, I am passing the baton to Steven Swartz, who will become chief executive officer on June 1, 2013.

Many of you know Steve from his varied roles with the company during the past 20 years. In 1991, he was the founding editor of SmartMoney, our venture with Dow Jones, and eventually went on to run our Newspapers division in 2008. Steve was appointed chief operating officer in 2011, and assumed the role of president last year.

Steve has exactly the kind of breadth that a company like ours needs: expertise in both editorial and business roles. He not only brings great energy and vision to the job, he has established himself as a visible and respected executive in media, advertising and the civic communities that are important to Hearst. He has fulfilled my expectations and those of the Board, and we are confident in his abilities to lead our company into the future.

I will continue serving Hearst Corporation as executive vice chairman of the Board of Directors and chairman of the Executive Committee.

As we transition to a new CEO—only the seventh in our company’s 126-year-history—I must again thank our Board and trustees, and you, my colleagues, for transforming a company that began as a single newspaper into one of the great “startups” that continues to reinvent itself in media, entertainment and information around the world.

The press release announcing this news is below and will be issued shortly.

All good wishes,

Frank A. Bennack, Jr.