DEAR NEW YORK TIMES: Eric Schmidt As CEO? Are You Nuts? Do You Even Know What Business You're In?

eric schmidt

The New York Times Company’s CEO search is apparently progressing, if at a pace that can only be described as leisurely.

(The NYT has been without a “CEO” for almost nine months now.)

And now Edmund Lee of Bloomberg has been kind enough to bring us an update on the search, which included the following details.

Among the NYT’s top choices for the job were:

  • Eric Schmidt, the former CEO of Google
  • Paul Sagan, the CEO of Akamai


Well, apparently because the NYT regards its future as “digital” and these two executives are from the “digital” industry.

Now, Eric and Paul are also two smart, excellent, butt-kicking chief executives, and if the NYT is just looking for a “capable CEO who understands the Internet,” the NYT could certainly do worse.

But, unfortunately, the selection of these two men as “aspirational” choices for the NYT’s top job shows that the NYT still has no idea what business it’s in.

The NYT is in a very specific business: The news and content production and distribution business.

The NYT’s past is print media. Its future is digital media. And whoever runs the company needs a deep understanding of both.

Yes, Eric Schmidt and Paul Sagan work in the “digital” industry. One sold software to corporations and then built a massive global search engine. The other built a content delivery network.

Unfortunately, neither of those two missions has much to do with the business the New York Times is in.

And it is highly unlikely, at least in my opinion, that either Eric or Paul have any real interest or expertise in the business the New York Times is actually in.

And the New York Times, I am also sad to say, is a teensy-weensy business compared to both Google and Akamai. And it has a massive albatross legacy business, with, gasp, unions. And it has a century of “tradition” that it is supposed to try to uphold while also embracing the Internet.

So, what the NYT’s “aspirational” preference for Eric or Paul to become CEO tells me is that the NYT is still hallucinating about both its place in the world and, more importantly, the reality of the business it is in.

Fortunately, neither Eric or Paul wanted the job.

So that has left the NYT to focus on other candidates.

One of them, Bloomberg tells us, is Gordon Crovitz, the former publisher of the Wall Street Journal.

Gordon Crovitz would be a great choice for CEO of the New York Times.


Because unlike Eric Schmidt and Paul Sagan, Gordon actually knows the business the New York Times is in. Both print and digital.

And he built a great digital business at the Wall Street Journal.

And we would quietly relish the silent fuming and mortification of everyone at the NYT if the former publisher of the hated uber-conservative Wall Street Journal were to become CEO.

Unfortunately, the New York Times is unlikely to get Gordon Crovitz as CEO.


Well, first, because Gordon Crovitz is probably smart enough to understand that being “CEO” of the New York Times isn’t like being CEO at a normal company. Because, at the New York Times, the CEO is basically a COO who works for the real CEO, Arthur Sulzberger. And unless one agrees completely with the vision of Arthur Sulzberger and wants to spend one’s days executing it, one might eventually get annoyed at having the CEO title without actually having the CEO’s power.

But maybe Gordon Crovitz would be cool with that. I don’t know. I haven’t asked him.

new york times, news profit, revenue, expenses, 02/02/12Whoever runs this baby has a challenge on their hands. Click image for more.

Photo: Business Insider

But here’s another reason the NYT is unlikely to get Gordon Crovitz as CEO.Because we’re not going to let the NYT have him!

Gordon Crovitz is a board member of this publication, Business Insider. If Gordon becomes CEO of the New York Times, we suspect the boy scouts on the New York Times governance committee will force Gordon to resign from our board. And that would suck.

But, OK, fine.

We love Gordon and we’ll support him in whatever he wants to do.

And we love the New York Times, and we want to see it succeed.

And we think Gordon would do a great job as the CEO of the New York Times.

So if Gordon and the New York Times can work out a deal, we won’t stand in the way…

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