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Arthur O. Sulzberger Jr. is stepping down as publisher of The New York Times after 25 years, and his son, Arthur Gregg Sulzberger, known as A.G., has been named his successor, the company announced Thursday. The older Sulzberger is 66, the younger 37.
It is a familiar passing of the baton at a newspaper that has been in the Sulzberger family since 1896. Arthur O. Sulzberger Jr. took over from his father, Arthur Ochs Sulzberger, known as Punch, in 1992. A.G. Sulzberger was named deputy publisher last year, in a clear indication of the family's succession plan, and had already assumed supervision of the newspaper's opinion section.
The changing of the guard comes at the end of a positive financial year for the Times company, which no longer sees print as its lifeblood. Having embraced the subscription model, the Times ends the year with 2.5 million paid digital subscribers and 1 million print customers.
Digital subscribers offer a much higher profit margin when compared with the expense of the printing presses and delivery trucks needed to get newspapers to newsstands across the country. The New York Times’ online content averages 140 million unique visitors per month, according to the company.
The challenge for the new publisher will be persuading more readers to pay for content — millions still read a handful of articles a month free — while fending off rivals like the The Washington Post, which has been offering bargain-basement subscription deals. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos owns The Post.
Even with the Times' digital growth, Moody’s investor services has a negative outlook for the newspaper and magazine sector and predicts continued declines in pre-tax earnings. Print ad woes led to the sale of Time Inc. to the Meredith Corp, with backing from the Koch brothers. The Boston Herald also said it would file for bankruptcy this month.
Arthur O. Sulzberger Jr. will retire as publisher but will continue as chairman of the board. “It has been an extraordinary honor to serve as publisher of The New York Times, and I will step down at the end of the year prouder than I have ever been of the strength, independence and integrity of this institution," he said in a company statement.
A.G. Sulzberger has worked as a reporter and an editor at the newspaper and ran the Kansas City bureau. He has helped lead the digital transformation of the newspaper, and ran a team that produced an "innovation report" in 2014 that became influential in the industry.
“My focus as publisher will be on ensuring the continued journalistic excellence and commercial success of The Times through a period of transformation for the news industry," he said in the statement.