Parsing Robert Thomson

While remaining civil, the News Corp CEO couldn’t resist providing a few nice clues on why he dumped Dow Jones boss Lex Fenwick.

rtwordfotoAnnouncing that you’re dumping the CEO of a major business unit while you’re simultaneously conducting a review of  its “institutional strategy” is a bit like notifying the passengers mid-Atlantic that the captain has been locked in the lavatory while the 747 waits to learn its new destination.

Most corporate bad-news statements are designed to conceal meaning through soft, flabby language.  But News Corp CEO Robert Thomson chose instead to conceal meaning through sharp, crafted language.  Even so, given Thomson’s penchant for words that are somehow both precise and blunt, it pays to take a close look at the statement for deeper meaning.

So here’s the parse…

News Corp Announces Changes At Dow Jones & Company

Lex Fenwick Departs As CEO;
Dow Jones’ Institutional Strategy To Be Reviewed

NC:  News Corp announced today a series of changes at Dow Jones & Company that include the departure of Chief Executive Officer Lex Fenwick, the naming of William Lewis as Interim CEO and plans to review Dow Jones’ institutional strategy.

Translation:  How’s that for a nut graph?  You can’t say we buried the lede.

NC:  “We thank Lex for his time and energy at the helm of Dow Jones, and in particular for his original vision of DJX as an innovative way to integrate content and deliver it to customers in a timely manner,” said Robert Thomson, Chief Executive of News Corp.

Translation:  “We’re going to be civil about this publicly.  But the original vision and the flash never translated into execution, and so we’re having an execution of our own,” said Robert Thomson, who really enjoyed being editor-in-chief of Dow Jones.

NC:  Mr. Thomson also announced that William Lewis, News Corp Chief Creative Officer, will serve as Interim CEO of Dow Jones while a search for a permanent chief executive is underway.

Translation:  Mr. Thomson also announced that Dow will name a permanent CEO to administer the new strategy, not define it.

NC:  “We’re reviewing the institutional strategy of Dow Jones with an eye towards changes that will deliver even more value to its customers. As part of that, we’re planning improvements to DJX,” said Mr. Thomson, who signaled that greater flexibility in its product offerings is likely in the short term.

Translation:  “We’re reviewing the customer strategy of Dow Jones with an eye towards changes that will deliver even more value to our institution.  And as part of that, we’re going to make improvements to DJX now, not some day,” said Mr. Thomson, who signaled that he’s tired of reading that Dow Jones is losing.

NC:  Dow Jones’ DJX information service has been in beta since its launch last year.

Translation:  It’s been in beta since its launch last year!!!  It was the thing we thought he’d be best at!  Instead, all we got was a chandelier.

NC:  “We will also be redoubling our efforts to develop The Wall Street Journal and its digital properties globally, which continue to serve the world’s most influential readers with the most authoritative news and analysis,” said Mr. Thomson.

Translation:  “We will also be redoubling our efforts to get on with the strategy we outlined back when I first took over Dow Jones,” said Mr. Thomson.

NC:  Mr. Lewis joined News Corp in 2010 as Group General Manager at News International (now News UK), and was appointed Chief Creative Officer at News Corp by Mr. Thomson last year to build new businesses, target acquisitions and drive digital initiatives for the company.

Translation:  Mr. Lewis joined News Corp in 2010 and ran the clean-up campaign during the height of the hacking scandal.  We had to get him out of the UK, and then we needed to get him a real job.  He has our trust.

NC:  Mr. Lewis previously served as Editor-in-Chief of the Telegraph Media Group in the UK, where he helped create an industry-leading, digitally integrated newsroom and pioneered web-first publishing.

Translation:  Mr. Lewis left the Telegraph in a spat with Murdoch MacLennan, which made him our friend.

Mr. Lewis also served as Business Editor of The Sunday Times and Global News Editor of the Financial Times.  As a journalist, he covered mergers & acquisitions and fund management, among other topics.

Translation:  Mr. Lewis has known Mr. Thomson for years.

NC:  Mr. Fenwick joined Dow Jones in February, 2012 after a 25-year career at Bloomberg LP, most recently as CEO of Bloomberg Ventures.

Translation:  We gave him nearly two years.  Besides, Mr. Fenwich was never really one of us.