Belated gift: Christmas came late for McClatchy Co. Chief Executive Officer Gary Pruitt when members of his hand-picked corporate board of directors reiterated their support for him in the Dec. 26 edition of the Wall Street Journal. “We have the best person in place to get us through some of these turbulent times” is how board member Kevin McClatchy, son of C.K. McClatchy, who served as president from 1978 until his death in 1989, put it. Pruitt responded by telling the Journal, “I plan on sticking around. I hope to and expect to.”
Not so fast, Gar. You made a bold move back in 2006 when you bought the Knight Ridder newspaper chain, but then came reports of more print advertising migrating online, the real estate bust hitting particularly hard in two of your biggest markets, California and Florida, and then—BOOM!—the value of McClatchy’s publicly traded stock tanking more than 70 percent since the start of ’07. If Pruitt and his fellow McClatchy corporate officers and board members adhere to their mission to reverse this reversal of fortune, it’s time for them to consider an even bolder move:
Outsource the CEO.
India givers: Outsourcing the CEO is such a simple idea that you’d think this was thought up by McClatchy, which publishes 30 U.S. newspapers including the Sacramento Bee, and not Your Favorite Set of Choppers. Indeed, Bites’ inspiration for the novel idea was McClatchy’s December 6 announcement that it plans to eliminate half the artist jobs at the Bee by next summer and give the business to Express KCS, a San Jose, Calif., company with offices in New Delhi and nearby Gurgaon, India. Coupled with McClatchy outsourcing circulation customer service last summer to an Illinois company that also operates out of the Philippines, it was apparent that the newspaper giant is gaga for sending salaries overseas.
So Bites made the next logical move, posting an ad for a “Media Company CEO” on Delhi Craigslist on December 19. A second version went up on December 26 in case the first was overlooked amid India’s notoriously frenzied Christmas season.
Will CEO for food: “The value of McClatchy’s stock has plummeted so drastically, so quickly, that we at the SN&R are pulling out all the stops to ensure daily journalism survives in our town,” reads our ad in the Delhi craigslist “admin/office” section. “We are thereby accepting applications that we will dutifully forward to McClatchy for ‘outsourced’ CEOs—chief executive officers who will work from their home country for much less than the salary of McClatchy’s current CEO (who earns $1 million a year, or up to $2.38 million with bonuses. No, that’s NOT a typo!).”
The first version of the ad lists such duties as “bailing water out of a sinking ship, blacking or tearing out bad McClatchy financial news from publications distributed in house (including your own) and dancing while angry board members shoot bullets at your feet.” The second ad adds, “reassuring staff members you have not yet let go that you have no plans to let them go (today); attending board meetings and Rolling Stones concerts via teleconference; and distracting angry callers (generally shareholders and vendors) by chit-chatting about the weather.”
Both end the same: “Serious inquires only.”
The line forms here: SN&R editor Matt Coker is listed as the place to send those serious inquiries. At press time, a half dozen had trickled in from a business development manager with a New Delhi software company; a headhunter seeking more information because he claims to know of an Indian CEO adept at turning around “troubled companies”; a manager of “academics/university support/events management/Jacqueline of all trades and mistress of none” with addresses in India and the Bay Area; and a man—with accompanying resume—wondering if he can apply even though he lives not in India but the Philippines.
Coker informed him that since McClatchy is already outsourcing to both countries, why not?