Jim VandeHei, one of the two founding editors of Politico, has been named president and CEO of both Politico and the recently acquired Capital New York, according to memos obtained by The Huffington Post.
Owner and publisher Robert Allbritton announced the move Sunday night that will bring VandeHei out of the newsroom and into the executive suite.
"This is a seminal moment for me, for the company and for Jim," Allbritton wrote. "We are on the verge of the most dynamic growth in our young history -- and this demands an equally dynamic leader and thinker guiding us."
Allbritton's decision in May to sell the company's TV stations in order to focus on Politico and make new media investments marked a generational shift for the family-owned media company. In July, it was reported that Sinclair Broadcast Group agreed to pay nearly $1 billion for the stations, with the sale expected to close next year. Fred Ryan, who served as Allbritton Communications' CEO since the mid-1990's, then announced last month that he was stepping down, signaling more change to come in the executive ranks.
John Harris, who left the Washington Post with VandeHei in Nov. 2006 to launch Politico, will remain editor-in-chief.
VandeHei addressed the move in a separate memo to staff Sunday night.
"John Harris and I both have spent the past seven years getting a virtual master's degree in the business of media. We started the company with a sound theory for dominating Washington journalistically but learned - through experimentation, lots of work and conversations with people smarter than us - what it actually takes to build a profitable business," VandeHei continued.
'I will miss engaging our brilliant journalists in discussions about stories and ideas," he continued. "But, I want to direct my attention to growing our business so we can hire more journalists, cover more topics and help build a template for modern media success."
Both memos are below:
I am starting to feel like a POLITICO reporter with all of the breaking news I have to share these days. But like any good scoop, the one I am about to spring on you really pops because it fits into an exciting and revelatory narrative.
I have asked Jim VandeHei to serve as president and CEO of POLITICO and our newest media venture, Capital New York. I wouldn't be writing this if he didn't accept.
This is a seminal moment for me, for the company and for Jim. We are on the verge of the most dynamic growth in our young history - and this demands an equally dynamic leader and thinker guiding us.
This gives me the dream team with the perfect coaches: Jim leading our business and John Harris leading our journalism.
I am giving Jim a big new portfolio and mission: running and growing POLITICO, Capital New York and hopefully some new ventures down the road. Together, we will make sure our expansion of POLITICO and our fall launches of Capital New York and our new magazine are editorial AND business successes.
I want to put this in some perspective for all of you. As you know, Fred Ryan, a co-founder and instrumental leader both here and on the TV side, plans on stepping down when the sale of my television properties is complete. Fred will be greatly missed, but I understand and appreciate his desire to try something new after such a strong run at ACC.
To my mind, it's only logical to turn to Jim in this exciting moment of growth and change.
I plan on dedicating a portion of the proceeds of the TV sale to POLITICO and new media ventures like it - and no one gets the business space better than Jim. We have common instincts on how to take advantage of the opportunities before us.
Jim started here as an editor who just happened to have entrepreneurial instincts. He has grown into a strategic business thinker who just happens to have journalistic instincts.
Those instincts helped create POLITICO, drive and shape our vertical strategy and cement the deal to purchase Capital New York. He has evolved into a very strong leader with a clear sense of what it takes to thrive in today's media business. He and I are of one mind on the endless opportunities before us - and how to take advantage of them.
It has been fun to watch both Jim and Harris grow into their very unique roles here as they strengthen each other with their shared passions, creativity and skills. It is striking to see two people who spend so much time together, confronting an unrelenting wave of challenges, almost always agreeing on matters big and small.
The two of them did everything together in the early years, but of late gravitated toward their most intense personal interests: for Harris, it's running our 160-person editorial operation, leading and inspiring a team of the best political journalists in the country; for VandeHei, it's crafting our business strategy and figuring out ways to stay a step or two ahead of our rivals.
Jim and John share my vision for creating a first-class business and editorial culture and taking calculated risks during this period of upheaval and opportunity. We have a shared interest in placing new bets, while making sure our initial ones continue to pay off.
While we will miss Jim's daily input on the editorial side, I am very confident in this decision because John is the best editor-in-chief in journalism today and has smartly hired and promoted some brilliant talent in recent months to join our newsroom leadership team.
I love the idea of having respected journalists atop both editorial and business as we navigate the changing ways of media. This will allow us to move fast while avoiding the hazards media companies can hit as the traditional church and state walls come down.
We have limitless potential. We have a strong brand, money to invest, a building full of world-class journalists and media professionals and the smartest leadership team one could imagine.
And I want to end on that final point: leadership. It is the difference between profit and loss, success and failure, winning and losing. You are blessed with a leadership team across the company that would be the envy of any boss in America.
There are many reasons for my confidence in this move but chief among them is the broader leadership team.
Jim might be an ideas guy with a strong, trusted sense of where we are headed. But it's John and Danielle Jones who make our journalism and platforms shine. It's Kim Kingsley, our chief operating officer, who makes sure we do all the things, big and small, to get there quickly, efficiently and profitably. And it's Roy Schwartz, our chief revenue officer, who makes sure we are bringing in the revenue it takes to fund our ambitions. And it's Ryan Mannion, our chief technology officer, who builds and maintains the technological foundation on which the entire operation is built. And beneath them is the management team with the right moves and ambitions to help guide us as we entertain the growth ahead of us.
And last, but not least, is the real reason for our success: all of you.
Through your ingenuity and hustle, you have created a template at POLITICO that works, and I am thrilled to expand on it here and test it in new markets, starting with New York.
Thank you for all you do for POLITICO.
I am writing to explain my decision to dedicate the next chapter of my life to the business of media - and what it means for you.
I have spent my seven years here helping shape the strategic direction of POLITICO, concentrating on both editorial and business. To me, you cannot separate the two. We are successful because our business and editorial strategies work in perfect synchronicity.
Thankfully, we get both sides right. But, as Mike Allen is fond of warning, "The wolf is always at the door." We live in a world of constant disruption and in a city of unrelenting competition. I want to make sure we navigate this moment successfully and emerge stronger, smarter and more essential to more readers, subscribers and advertisers. To do this, a significant change in my focus and responsibilities was required.
Robert Allbritton understands this time in media better than any publisher in the game today. While others retrench, Robert invests. While others worry, Robert pounces. We are of one mind on how to prosper in new media, so I am honored to take on the role of his president and CEO for POLITICO and Capital New York.
Words cannot express my gratitude for Robert's leadership, guidance and friendship over the years. He has an uncanny feel for getting the big things right, whether it's the timing of his TV deal or pushing John Harris and I to think more ambitiously at critical moments. And he has never, not once, said no to a big investment in journalism when presented with a sound editorial and business case for it.
I am also lucky to continue soaking up the wisdom and guidance of our co-founder and outgoing CEO Fred Ryan. Fred has been a mentor, friend and hunting companion for seven unforgettable years. I will lean heavily on him during this transition and afterward, when he serves as a director for the company and lifelong member of the POLITICO family.
John Harris and I both have spent the past seven years getting a virtual master's degree in the business of media. We started the company with a sound theory for dominating Washington journalistically but learned - through experimentation, lots of work and conversations with people smarter than us - what it actually takes to build a profitable business.
I will miss engaging our brilliant journalists in discussions about stories and ideas. But, I want to direct my attention to growing our business so we can hire more journalists, cover more topics and help build a template for modern media success.
The editorial side of things could not be in better hands with Harris leading the journalism. He has put in place an awesome leadership team with talented POLITICO veterans like Danielle Jones and Bill Nichols, rising stars like Rachel Smolkin and Marty Kady and newcomers like Susan Glasser. We have never had as much editing and reporting firepower as we do today. That's not hyperbole. That's fact.
At the same time, most of you will actually hear from me much more frequently going forward. My job is not just guiding the company under Robert's leadership, but explaining to all of you what we are doing, why we are doing it and, most important, how what you do fits into our grander plan for capitalizing on the commotion.
You will routinely hear not just from me, but also from the other essential members of our business leadership team, in particular, Roy Schwartz, the mastermind of our revenue strategy; Ryan Mannion, the brain behind our technological platforms and Kim Kingsley, the mastermind of, well, everything else.
Together, we have some very specific views on what it takes to maximize the opportunity before us. It is not an accident that in the span of a few months we bought Capital New York, launched three Pro verticals, built a magazine and hired a long-form journalism staff. We have a clear sense of where we are headed.
We need to constantly evolve our editorial model and adjust to what readers want and need. This means exploring new ways to deliver our content, in tone, length and through new and various platforms.
Media companies get stuck when they cling stubbornly to old habits and produce things the way they want to produce them - instead of studying closely the habits of our consumers, the reader, and adjusting.
We need to constantly evolve our business model and adapt to what advertisers and paying subscribers want and need. This means building platforms that provide people exceptional value, whether it's cleverly displaying advertising for maximum impact or delivering information in the most efficient manner possible.
Media companies get stuck when they blindly follow trends or try to dupe the people paying for their product. We are blessed that unlike many competitors we are not selling myth. We sell reality: the reality that their ads are actually seen by the most important readers in the world and the stories readers pay for are essential, timely and spot-on accurate and fair.
We are excited to start testing these ideas (and more) in New York through our sister publication, Capital New York. My role as CEO of both companies will allow us to experiment with ideas across two different platforms and draw on the expertise of our ever-growing leadership team. I have asked Roy and Kim to help me oversee both companies, as chief revenue officer and chief operating officer, respectively.
Make no mistake: if we get complacent or distracted or slow, we will lose our edge. The days of untouchable incumbents in media are over - this is the era of abrupt change. We have no choice but to keep delivering the goods, better, faster and more efficiently. Or someone will do unto us what we have done unto others.
We have very specific thoughts on what it takes to maintain a vibrant culture, one intolerant of complacency, and will have more to say on this in the weeks to come.
John and I have learned so much these past seven years. There was a priceless quote in one of the early pieces about POLITICO in which Harris said my job was to pop the cork and let people know "we are going to take on the world," and his was to keep an eye on how much people are drinking and make sure no one got out of control. It captured nicely the essence of our partnership: we turn to each other to balance out our ambitions, personalities and skills.
I am so bullish about our continued success. With Harris and Danielle Jones at the editorial helm, we cannot be beat on reporting. With Kim, Roy, Ryan, Peter, Miki, Beth, Sara, Jennifer, Cally and Katherine at the strategic helm, we cannot be beat on business or technology.
So my job will be to make sure we harness our brand, our strong position and all of your talents to grow POLITICO, Capital New York and any new efforts - and prove, definitively, there is a robust future for nonpartisan, high-quality journalism.
I look forward to working with all of you to make this happen.
Thank you for all you do for POLITICO and Capital New York.
Disclosure: This reporter worked at Politico from 2007-2010