Gannett Co. Turns to Egon Zehnder to Find CEO

The recruitment firm sets to work to find a replacement for a leader who is stepping down after 29 years of service. Whether Gannett will choose its next CEO from outside or inside its business remains an open question. Let’s go inside the latest C-suite search.

December 10, 2018 – Gannett Co. has initiated a succession process to find a successor to president and CEO Robert Dickey, who recently informed its board of directors that he intends to retire. The company has engaged Egon Zehnder to assist in evaluating both internal and external candidates for the role.

“Succession planning is one of a board’s greatest duties, and we are embarking on a deliberate and thoughtful process to identify the next chief executive of Gannett,” said J. Jeffry Louis, chairman of the Gannett board of directors. “We will seek candidates who will support our culture and bring the skills, experience and integrity needed to ensure Gannett remains a news and digital marketing services leader.”

“Under Bob’s leadership, Gannett has become the largest local-to-national media network in the country, and the award-winning journalism the network has produced has been extraordinary,” he said. “We thank Bob for his 29 years of service to Gannett and are grateful for his continuing leadership in creating value for our customers and shareholders as we work to select his successor.”

Related: Egon Zehnder Lands New CEO for AIG

Mr. Dickey, who will be involved with the search, will stay on until May 7. In the event that a successor is chosen before that, the 61-year-old leader will assist with the transition as an adviser. “While the board undertakes its duty to plan for the future, I will continue working hard alongside my talented and dedicated colleagues to support Gannett’s leadership, continue our digital transformation and position our brands for long-term success,” he said.

Gannett’s next CEO will have the challenge of trying to balance the funding the company’s new digital growth while balancing its traditional print business. The journalism industry continues to experience a shift marked by declining print circulation and advertising revenue. According to USA Today, close to half of the company’s advertising revenue comes from print and will continue to fund the company’s digital transformation.

Related: Poor Succession Planning Leading to High CEO Turnover

Gannett is a digitally-focused media and marketing solutions company. Its brands include USA Today, Gannett Publishing Services,,, nearly 120 U.S. newspapers and digital news sites and Newsquest Media Group out of the U.K. Gannett’s various outlets reach 125 million people monthly.

Selecting the Right CEO

For boards, the task of selecting a new CEO is fraught with more risk and uncertainty than ever. It is no longer a matter of simply choosing a successor based on past performance or current readiness, said Egon Zehnder unrelated to this search. The decision is a complex study in forecasting the future, assessing possibilities and mitigating risk, it added.

Egon Zehnder Names Edilson Camara CEO
Egon Zehnder has appointed Edilson Camara as its new chief executive officer, taking over from Rajeev Vasudeva, who stepped down last month after holding the position since 2014. Based in Toronto, Mr. Camara assumes the role immediately, becoming the sixth CEO in the firm’s 55-year history.

Egon Zehnder’s global CEO practice works closely with boards to identify, develop and appoint CEOs equipped to meet the challenges and define the opportunities organizations face, both today and down the road. Over the last five years, the firm has led more than 1,000 CEO placements, making it one of the preeminent leaders in C-suite recruitment. The firm’s CEO practice is comprised of 100 senior consultants from across the globe, with cross-sector expertise that includes business and industry, government and the non-profit sectors.

Recruiting Insiders and Outsiders

It is unclear whether Gannett will promote someone from within or tap an external executive to serve as its next CEO, but Egon Zehnder has led searches from both ends of the spectrum.

India-based IT company Infosys appointed former Capgemini executive Salil S. Parekh as managing director and CEO with the help of Egon Zehnder. Mr. Sikka was the first outsider in the company’s history to hold the top leadership post. Infosys looked at internal candidates, external candidates and Infosys alumni.

Related: Bridging the Skills Gap With Insiders

The Hershey Company retained Egon Zehnder this past year to assist with its CEO succession plan. That search concluded with the appointment of the chocolate maker’s COO Michele Buck as its new leader. Since joining the company in 2005, Ms. Buck has spearheaded the development and execution of many successful growth initiatives and strategic shifts at the company, most notably Hershey’s substantial growth in its core confection portfolio as it moved from a supply-driven to demand-driven business model.

As CEO Turnover Rises, Outsiders Are Given a Closer Look
Last year, 17 percent of the largest 2,500 public companies in the world changed their CEO, more than in any of the previous 16 years of the “CEO Success Study” from Strategy&, PwC’s strategy consulting business.

In one of the biggest search assignments in British business in recent years, Egon Zehnder (and rival Korn Ferry) engaged to support the CEO succession and recruitment process at GlaxoSmithKline by tapping company insider Emma Walmsley as its CEO. She became the first woman to lead the pharmaceutical giant and GSK became the first top-tier pharmaceutical company to be led by a woman. Ms. Walmsley was CEO of the company’s consumer healthcare division.

Top Global Search

Egon Zehnder retained its status as the No. 3 ranked global search firm according to Hunt Scanlon Media this past spring – edging out Heidrick & Struggles and Russell Reynolds Associates. Since 1964, the firm has been at the forefront of defining top leadership in the face of changing economic conditions as well as major transitions in the executive search field.

With more than 400 consultants in 69 offices and 41 countries around the globe, Egon Zehnder works with public and private corporations, family-owned enterprises and non-profit and government agencies to provide board advisory services, CEO and leadership succession planning, executive search and assessment, and leadership development solutions.

Related: Companies Remain Unprepared to Fill CEO Vacancies

Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief; Dale M. Zupsansky, Managing Editor; Stephen Sawicki, Managing Editor; and Andrew W. Mitchell, Managing Editor – Hunt Scanlon Media

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