New York (CNN Business)Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, Jr., is retiring as chairman of the New York Times Co. as of the end of this year, turning control of the family-controlled company that publishes the paper over to his son.
AG Sulzberger, 40, has been publisher of the Times since 2018, the sixth member of the Sulzberger and Ochs family to serve in that role, succeeding his father in that role as well. The family has controlled the company since buying the paper in 1896.
Sulzberger, Jr., 69, who was publisher of the Times for more than 25 years, will retire as chairman effective December 31. He held the chairmanship since 1997, overseeing the greatest change in the paper in more than a century. He took it from a purely black-and-white paper to color printing, expanded its national edition and oversaw the transformation from print to online news distribution. Last quarter for the first time in its history, the paper’s digital revenue exceeded its print revenue.
Print media has been struggling for years as readers shift to online. The Times, which instituted a paywall in 2011 for readers wanting to access its stories online, has weathered that change better than most publishers. It now has 5.7 million digital-only subscriptions, and has a target of 10 million digital subscribers by 2025.
But the New York Times and other publishers have been hit hard during the pandemic as advertising revenue plunged 44% in the second quarter as brands eliminated discretionary spending and some major retailers filed for bankruptcy.
Despite the repeated claims by President Donald Trump that the paper is “failing,” the Times has remained profitable. Even in the most recent second quarter it posted net income of $23.7 million, only a 6% decrease from a year ago despite the hit from the pandemic. In 2019 it posted a 20% gain in net income.
Although his son will be chairman of the board, AG Sulzberger will not be CEO of the company. In July Meredith Kopit Levien, who had been chief operating officer, was named to that post. She succeeded Mark Thompson, 62, who has served as CEO since 2012, on September 8.
“Serving this essential institution and working alongside so many gifted journalists over the years has been the privilege of my life,” said Sulzberger Jr. “There’s an old saying, ‘Laurels are nice to wear, but never to rest upon.’ I know A.G. will not rest in his drive to empower our journalists and expand the scope of The Times’s ambitions.