Tronc Hires Former Yahoo Exec Levinsohn as LA Times CEO and Publisher

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Ross Levinsohn, an internet and media veteran who served as interim chief executive officer of Yahoo before he was passed over for Marissa Mayer, was named CEO and publisher for the Los Angeles Times on Monday by publishing parent Tronc Inc. (NASDAQ: TRNC). The announcement was part of a broader management shake-up at Tronc’s flagship newspaper.

Levinsohn, replaces Davan Maharaj, who was at the L.A. Times for 28 years. Maharaj had been named publisher in 2016 in addition to his role as editor in chief.

Jim Kirk was named interim executive editor and will lead the search for a new editor in chief, the company said. Kirk had served as publisher and editor in chief of the Chicago Sun-Times.

Justin C. Dearborn, chief executive officer and director, said in a statement:

Ross is a visionary and innovative executive who is the ideal person to lead the Los Angeles Times into its next stage of growth. We believe his long-standing ties to Southern California and passion for news, coupled with his deep experience in technology and media, make him uniquely qualified to accelerate our growth across the entire company.

Levinsohn is joining an organization that has undergone turbulent changes and faces an uncertain future as it tries to transition to a more digital platform. Like other publishing companies, Tronc is trying to generate more digital ad revenue to make up for the loss of print advertising revenue.

Tronc has made numerous management changes since the company was spun off in 2014 from Tribune Media, now primarily a TV company. Tronc brought in investor Michael Ferro to help right its finances. However, he forced out the CEO and some members of its board. Ferro also thwarted a takeover bid from Gannett earlier this year.

Tronc’s revenue fell to $366 million in the first quarter from $398 million in the same quarter of 2016. The company’s net loss was $3 million, compared to $6 million in the comparable quarter. Tronc has divided itself into two segments. The first, TroncM, primarily holds the company’s print businesses. Its revenue dropped from $343 million in the first quarter of 2016 to $311 million in the most recent quarter. Income from operations for the division was essentially flat at about $20 million. TroncX, which holds most of the parent’s digital businesses, had revenue of $55 million in the first quarter, compared to $57 million in the year ago quarter. Income from operations was $4 million, compared to nearly $7 million in the period of 2016.

Levinsohn left Yahoo in July 2012 after the company named Mayer, an executive at Google, to the top job.

Besides serving as interim CEO at Yahoo, Levinsohn served as president of Fox Interactive Media, where he oversaw digital media properties including MySpace, IGN, Fox Sports, Rotten Tomatoes and Fox’s entertainment assets. He also played a role in the creation of what is now Hulu. Levinsohn went on to serve as CEO of Guggenheim Digital Media, where he managed assets including “The Hollywood Reporter,” “Billboard,” “Adweek” and the Clio Awards. He co-founded Whisper Advisors, a boutique media and technology advisory firm.

“I look forward to working with the talented teams to expand our footprint, advance tronc’s digital transformation and further cement our role as a trusted source of news and information,” said Levinsohn in a statement. “We have global ambitions for this brand, and I believe the Los Angeles Times has the potential to further expand and deepen its societal and cultural impact regionally, nationally and around the world.”

Tronc shares rose 4.1% to $13.38 apiece on Monday. The stock is little changed year to date.