Fifteen months after becoming the publisher of the La Cañada Valley Sun with the purchase of this paper by the Los Angeles Times, Will Fleet has announced he has accepted an offer from The McClatchy Company to become the publisher and president of The Bradenton Herald in Florida.
The Herald is one of the former Knight-Ridder properties acquired by McClatchy; the sale was completed Tuesday. The 48-year-old Fleet will oversee the operations of the paper, which has a circulation of 53,000 on Sundays and a daily circulation of about 45,000.
The announcement of Fleet's pending departure was made Monday to the management team of Times Community News (TCN), which includes several newspapers in Orange County as well as the Glendale News-Press, Foothill Leader, Burbank Leader, La Cañada Valley Sun and Crescenta Valley Sun. Fleet had served as publisher of the News-Press group since 2004 and is poised to step down from a year's presidency of the California Newspaper Publishers Association in mid-July. His last day with TCN is July 17.
"Although I am very sad, I am happy for Will," said Tom Johnson, publisher of TCN. "Will has done a phenomenal job in getting the Glendale operation to where it is today and was instrumental in the acquisition of the Valley Sun properties. I wish him a fantastic future."
Fleet told the TCN management group that he had not been thinking of leaving the company but McClatchy had recruited him. "I was not really looking to do this. The offer and the opportunity were absolutely tremendous. I've really enjoyed working with Tom and all of you," he said. "We've been bringing in more revenue and … we have really engaged the community."
On Wednesday, Fleet was introduced to The Herald staff. He was quoted as telling them "I love this business" in an article that ran in the paper's online edition.
While publisher of the Valley Sun, Fleet oversaw the integration of the 60-year-old paper's production into the Times' way of doing things.
"Will is a dynamic and focused individual who was not only key to the Times' purchase of the Valley Sun in 2005, but also put an extraordinary amount of effort into bringing the Valley Sun operation into the 21st century," the paper's editor, Carol Cormaci, said Wednesday. "There have been many challenges along the way as we've all had to learn new systems in every department, but Will listened to our concerns and kept us on a steady course toward becoming fully integrated into TCN.
"And, it can't be overlooked by any of us at the Valley Sun that he had a vision to make the office look and function better — a goal that we realized just last week after months of renovating. We wish Will and his wife Jennifer the best as they start this new chapter in their lives."
No replacement for Fleet has been announced.