Boston Globe chief executive officer Doug Franklin stepped down Tuesday morning, less than seven months into the job, citing strategic differences with publisher John W. Henry, the owner of New England’s largest news organization.
“While John Henry and I share similar passion and vision for the Globe, we have our differences [in] how to strategically achieve our financial sustainability,” Franklin wrote in a short note to staff. “With disappointment, I am resigning from the Globe, effective immediately, and will not be part of your work shaping the Globe’s future.”
Henry, in a separate note to staff, said he intends to become “a more active publisher,” and announced that former Politico chief financial officer Vinay Mehra will become president and chief financial officer of the Globe, effective immediately. Mehra had been hired by the Globe in May as executive vice president and CFO, with a planned start date of sometime this summer. He is a former chief financial officer and treasurer of WGBH, the Boston public media giant.
Globe managing director Linda Henry, who is married to John Henry, “will take on more responsibility,” Henry said.
Of Franklin, Henry wrote, “I’m very grateful for Doug’s hard work on behalf of this organization at an especially complex and sensitive time — as we moved from our decades-long home in Dorchester to Exchange Place [in downtown Boston] and Taunton. These are not easy jobs in this industry, and Doug did his with passion, impact, and commitment.”
Turning to Mehra, Henry said, “Vinay has distinguished himself at every stop along his career, most recently at Politico, where he was an active CFO with a strong grasp of the entire business and a commitment to a journalism enterprise supported by novel revenue streams. His prior work at WGBH gave him important insights into the Boston region, where he has always lived while commuting to Washington, and an understanding of the Globe’s vital role in New England.”
Franklin, a former door-to-door subscription salesman who rose to the positions of publisher of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and chief financial officer of Cox Enterprises, came out of retirement in Florida in late 2016 to accept the Boston job. His short tenure saw the completion of a long-planned relocation of the Globe newsroom and business offices to downtown Boston. He is widely credited internally with injecting more structure among the disparate departments — from subscription sales to advertising — in a complex news organization facing industry turmoil.
But his tenure also saw continued press problems at the newspaper’s new Taunton printing facility, which has been a vexing and expensive headache for a media organization fighting to become financially self-sufficient in an era of declining print advertising. The printing problems pre-date Franklin, who started on Jan. 1.
Franklin replaced Mike Sheehan, the former chief executive of advertising giant Hill Holliday, whom Henry hired as CEO in January 2014. Sheehan left at the end of his original three-year agreement, and participated in the search that led to Franklin.
With the departure of Franklin, the Globe has had three top executives in just over 3 1/2/ years.
After a 38-year career at Cox, an Atlanta-based company with 50,000 employees, Franklin retired in 2015 as executive vice president and chief financial officer. He is a former newspaper publisher who oversaw four Ohio newspapers, and also led the Palm Beach Post.
Franklin was not actively looking for work when a friend tipped him to the Globe job. “Retirement is pretty boring,” Franklin said when his hiring was announced. In an introductory note to Globe employees when he was hired, Franklin said, “While there are no silver bullets in our business, I’m bullish about our pathway forward. Mobile and social platforms allow us to reach more readers than ever before with your expert storytelling. Our mission is unique: informing, improving and inspiring Boston.”
In the note announcing his resignation, Franklin thanked the paper’s staff and said he took the job because, “I love the newspaper industry, cherish our First Amendment obligations, and value the role of the Globe in the Boston region.
“It was a big challenge, but I also believed it was a good fit, given my record of successfully turning around newspapers,” Franklin wrote. “The Globe is one of the best brands, best newsrooms, and most loyal reader subscription businesses in the country. Hard work is ahead for all of you and I know you will successfully navigate the challenges.”
Mehra’s bio on the Politico website says he led the company’s financial operations as well as corporate development and strategy.
In an interview published last year, Mehra said he came to Politico because the policy- and politics-focused news site had built a new business model.
“Politico has redefined how to make money in the media business without just being dependent on the advertising side of it,” he said in an interview with executive recruiter Samuel Dergel. “That’s something that really attracted me — they not only created a new business model, but they are also hugely successful in this new business model, and I want to be part of that.”
Mehra also described himself as a CFO “who blend(s) the financial and the non-financial data.”
“I think very often we CFOs forget that we are story tellers,” he told Dergel. “And we need to tell a story with these numbers. Just by looking at the numbers it’s hard to tell a story, unless you have the non-financial information to overlay to show if there is some kind of a trend; or to show what is driving those financial numbers.”
He cited his background at a nonprofit, saying not every investment is done for financial reasons. “For example — when I was in WGBH, very often we needed [to] build TV shows and I would say ‘hey — no one is ever going to buy this show, no one is ever going to agree to do a big sponsorship for it,’ ” he said. “And while that’s true, someone needs to tell the story of lack of diversity, or to tell the story of some other area which nobody else is willing to put the money in to do, because they don’t see the financial [return on investment] on it. But we have a responsibility to tell that story. So we’ll spend money on it because that’s really our core mission is – to educate people.”
Mehra “started his career at Price Waterhouse in 1989, where he concentrated most of his 20-plus-year career in the communications, media and entertainment industries and gained experience advising on a range of corporate finance, strategic, operational, and organizational issues across a variety of sectors in the media and communications industries,” his Politico bio states.Mark Arsenault can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @bostonglobemark.