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Mark Willes Is Named Publisher of The Times

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Richard T. Schlosberg III on Friday announced plans to retire as publisher and chief executive officer of the Los Angeles Times. He will be succeeded as publisher Oct. 1 by Mark H. Willes, who will also retain his titles as chairman, chief executive officer and president of the newspaper’s parent, Times Mirror Co.

Day-to-day operations of The Times will be taken over by Donald F. Wright in the new position of president and chief executive officer of The Times. Wright, 63, has been with Times Mirror for 19 years, most recently as senior vice president responsible for its Eastern newspapers.

The surprise retirement by the 53-year-old Schlosberg, to allow him to spend more time with his family, ends a 22-year career in the newspaper business.

“It’s fortunate to be able to leave one phase of your life when it’s at its peak,” Schlosberg said. “With the continuity of strong management assured through Mark and Don, I believe this is the perfect moment to begin the next phase of my life, in which I will devote much more time to my family.”

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“Dick Schlosberg has been an extraordinary publisher, newspaper industry leader and a deeply valued colleague,” Willes said.

“His achievements since he became The Times’ publisher in 1994 have been remarkable. He has put the paper back on a solid growth path through bold strategies that have enriched and expanded The Times’ editorial content and boosted advertising and circulation. Under his leadership, The Times is experiencing this year the best performance in its history,” said Willes, 56, who came to Times Mirror in June 1995 from the vice chairman’s job at food giant General Mills Inc.

“Newspapers--particularly The Times--are at the heart of who we are as a company, and I have a profound respect for the role that newspapers play in our society,” Willes said. “I plan to continue building on the growth strategies that Dick has firmly established and maintain the cherished journalistic traditions of The Times, which have made it one of the world’s premier newspapers.”

In addition to The Times, Los Angeles-based Times Mirror publishes Newsday, the Baltimore Sun, the Hartford Courant and other newspapers. It also publishes national consumer and trade magazines as well as professional information for the legal, health sciences, aviation and training industries.

Willes, acknowledging his relative inexperience in the newspaper industry, said he plans to spend the next few months developing a “core vision” for The Times. That vision, he said, will complement the one recently developed for Times Mirror: “To improve the performance of society by seeking truth and sharing understanding.”

Willes said he also is looking for ways the newspaper can adapt more quickly in a fast-changing world.

“How do we hang onto the traditional values of newspapering and still evolve more quickly to stay ahead of the curve?” he said. “The world is always changing, and we’re going to have to change with it.”

In related moves, Mary E. Junck was appointed president of Times Mirror’s Eastern newspapers, with additional responsibilities for the firm’s consumer magazines. Junck has been publisher and chief executive officer of the Baltimore Sun.

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Michael E. Waller, who has been publisher and chief executive officer of the Hartford Courant, will succeed Junck as publisher and chief executive officer of the Sun.

Succeeding Waller as publisher and chief executive officer of the Courant is Marty Petty, who was the newspaper’s senior vice president and general manager. All of the management changes at The Times and the Eastern newspapers take effect Oct. 1.

Wright was president and chief operating officer of The Times from 1982 to 1987, and has 40 years’ experience in the newspaper business. Times Editor Shelby Coffey III will report to Willes on news and editorial policies.

Schlosberg said he and his wife, Kathy, have long dreamed of early retirement, a hope he discussed with Willes two years ago when Willes joined Times Mirror with the mandate to turn the company around. Times Mirror and its newspapers then were suffering from the effects of deep recession in their circulation areas that decimated advertising and circulation revenues.

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But first came a corporate overhaul that affected all Times Mirror operations. The New York edition of Newsday and the evening edition of the Baltimore Sun were discontinued, certain sections were eliminated at The Times and more than 1,750 jobs were cut at Times Mirror companies.

Now, with The Times growing again and many new initiatives and management teams in place, Schlosberg said he feels that he can take the time to spend with his family, including two grandchildren. Under Schlosberg’s leadership, The Times won a Pulitzer Prize for its coverage of the 1994 Northridge earthquake and was a Pulitzer finalist nine times. The Times is now one of the fastest growing papers in the nation, as a result of pricing and marketing plans that Schlosberg put into place.

“While the work is never done, an overwhelming majority is done or we have all the management in place to carry it out,” Schlosberg said. “There was no event . . . but really that we wanted to simplify our lives.”

“A lot of people say they want to retire early, but it’s not an easy thing to do,” he said. “It was a very, very difficult decision to make. There are no bad days as publisher of the L.A. Times. There are good days and great days.”

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Schlosberg said he has not yet made any plans for the future except for Oct. 1. “We’re going to Disneyland,” he cracked.

Schlosberg, a native of Ardmore, Okla., was a U.S. Air Force pilot for five years, serving two tours of duty in Vietnam. In 1975, armed with a Harvard MBA, he began his newspaper career as marketing director and business director of newspapers in Anderson, S.C. Schlosberg joined Times Mirror in 1983 as publisher and chief executive officer of the Denver Post.

Willes was trained as an economist and began his career in 1967 as an assistant professor of finance at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. He joined the Federal Reserve System in 1969 and was president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis from 1977 to 1980. He spent 15 years at General Mills and was president and chief operating officer from 1985 to 1992, when he was named vice chairman.


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