Big changes at Dow Jones (but the “healthy respect for journalism” is still intact)

It hasn’t been a banner year for Dow Jones , or its leadership — falling earnings, shareholder value and morale; calls for regime change; disappointing reception to the Weekend Journal; other, er, indignities — which is why yesterday’s announcement of a new CEO to replacePeter Kann was not surprising.

Richard F. Zannino, Kann’s no. 2, will step up to the plate on February 1st, with the distinction of being the first non-journalist to lead the company since 1933. Kann, CEO for almost 15 years, was set to retire at the end of next year. Other notes about this change:

  • Publisher Karen Elliott House, who is married to Kann, will retire after 32 years with the WSJ. The position of print publisher will likely be eliminated.
  • Kann (aka the House Spouse) will stay on as Chairman of the Board until his mandatory retirement at the end of next year.
  • Word of the management switch sent the stock shooting up 10%. Eek. Guess leadership change was really overdue.
  • Both Zannino and Kann say that the controlling-shareholder Bancroft family (61% plus Board clout) has no intentions of selling Dow Jones (sorry Rupert)
  • Zannino isn’t planning to slice and dice his way across Dow Jones operations: “The company ‘can’t expense its way to profitability,’ he said.” Time Inc., did you hear that?
  • No, he’s not a journalist, but Zannino has been reading the Journal since he was in high school (raise your hand if you were reading the Journal in high school, keener). He says he has a “healthy respect for journalism.” You know that’s going to come back to haunt him.
  • Big decision for Zannino in the coming year: replacing WSJ managing editor Paul Steiger, who turns 65 next year.
  • I’m sorry, but it must be said: “Zannino” sounds a lot like “Zanoni,” as in Stephanie Zanoni, the leader of the Pink Ladies and the smokin’ hot star of “Grease II,” which could probably provide valuable leadership lessons for Zannino going forward.
  • House and Kann have both been gracious about this, at least according to the in-depth WSJ article (especially House, who was up for the CEO position herself): “Rich deserves to do whatever he thinks is the right thing to move the company forward.” She’s been with the paper for 32 years. Kann started in 1963 as an intern, reported for the WSJ from Vietnam and went on to be CEO, earning 17 Pulitzers for the WSJ during his tenure
  • Both House and Kann are Pulitzer winners themselves

    Dow Jones Taps Richard Zannino As New CEO [WSJ]

    The Journal at Sea [New York]
    Do as We Say, Not as We Dow: Why is Peter Kann still running Dow Jones? [Slate]
    Dow Jones Death Watch, Part 628 [FBNY]