The Washington Post named former Dow Jones boss William Lewis as its chief executive officer, ending a search for a new leader to turn around billionaire Jeff Bezos’ struggling publication.
Lewis, who will assume the reins on Jan. 2, 2024, takes over at a time when the media industry is grappling with a sluggish advertising market, low trust in news, and developments in generative AI technology that threaten to upend how people find and consume information.
“I am thrilled and humbled to be at its helm,” Lewis said Saturday.
Lewis’ appointment comes shortly after Bezos told the newsroom that he wanted the paper to “return to profitability,” the Wall Street Journal reported, citing a leaked internal memo to staff.
The outlet, which is projected to end the year taking a $100 million loss, announced buyouts last week in an effort to reduce its head count by about 10%. The newsroom is expected to shrink to about 940 journalists.
Bezos said Lewis’ background in “fierce, award-winning journalism” made him the right choice to lead the newspaper.
Lewis replaces Fred Ryan, who departed in June after a nine-year run that included the ramping up of the outlet’s digital business, as well as its struggle to sustain its growth.
At the time, Ryan cited a “decline in civility” and “toxic politics.”
“I have a deep and growing concern about the decline in civility and respectful dialogue in our political process, on social media platforms and more broadly across our society,” Ryan wrote in a memo to the Washington Post’s more than 1,000 workers.
Shortly before his exit, top brass axed about 2,500 Washington Post workers, which Ryan, at a testy town hall meeting in December, blamed on worsening economic conditions.
Patty Stonesifer, former CEO of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, has served as the Post’s interim CEO since Ryan’s departure in August.
Bezos is hoping Lewis will draw on his past to turn things around at the Washington Post.
As CEO of Dow Jones and publisher of the Wall Street Journal between 2014 and 2020, Lewis oversaw a period of strong growth and digital transformation.
The Journal said Lewis helped the paper nearly triple its number of digital subscribers to just over 2 million. In its most recent quarter, the Journal had about 3.4 million digital subscriptions.
The publication added that Lewis also played a critical role in helping ink deals with large tech platforms, including Apple, resulting in sizable payments for the Journal and other publications.
Lewis was succeeded by Almar Latour as Dow Jones CEO in May 2020. Lewis went on to found a digital media startup called the News Movement.
Prior to Dow Jones, Lewis spent nearly a decade as an executive at its parent company, News Corp., which also owns the New York Post.
Before that, Lewis was editor in chief of the UK’s Daily Telegraph newspaper.
Earlier in his career, Lewis was a business reporter covering mergers and acquisitions and funds management. He also worked at the Financial Times, where he served as news editor.