Will CEO for food

McClatchy is not outsourcing its top post, but these applicants may make it reconsider

McClatchy’s willingness to close departments in Sacramento in favor of cheap labor overseas led SN&R to suggest outsourcing the company’s CEO post, currently held by Gary Pruitt. A Craigslist ad was posted in India: The résumés have been pouring in.

McClatchy’s willingness to close departments in Sacramento in favor of cheap labor overseas led SN&R to suggest outsourcing the company’s CEO post, currently held by Gary Pruitt. A Craigslist ad was posted in India: The résumés have been pouring in.

One candidate to become Sacramento-based McClatchy Co.’s new chief executive officer would hire stay-at-home moms to generate editorial copy, another would apply the turnaround techniques he’s acquired as a small-business consultant to a national newspaper chain and a third would work for $976,000 less than the yearly salary currently paid to the financially beleaguered company’s CEO.

The problem is those applicants are in India, and Gary Pruitt, McClatchy’s current CEO, is firmly entrenched in Sacramento, which is the home of the 30-newspaper media giant and its flagship Sacramento Bee. Members of McClatchy’s corporate board of directors indicated to the Wall Street Journal in December that they do not see Pruitt going anywhere, giving their CEO a smashing vote of confidence despite the company’s stock value having plummeted 70 percent since the start of 2007. A couple weeks ago, the stock was trading in single digits before climbing back up to just over $10 a share as this story went to press.

Employee layoffs, buyouts and hiring freezes have accompanied the bad financial news. The Bee and other McClatchy newspapers, following an industry trend, have also sought to cut costs through outsourcing customer service and advertisement production to companies in India and the Philippines. McClatchy’s Miami Herald went so far as to announce in December it would hire a firm in India to edit copy and lay out pages of a neighborhood section. Those plans were scrapped a couple weeks later amid outcry in U.S. newsrooms.

McClatchy’s willingness to furlough longtime employees and close entire departments in Sacramento in favor of cheaper labor overseas got the SN&R brain trust wondering: Why not, in a show of sympathy and fair play, outsource the McClatchy CEO post? Pruitt earns $1 million a year, plus bonuses that can shoot his salary up to $2.38 million. Surely, SN&R presumed, if someone overseas can build an ad or soothe angry customers over the phone, they can handle running McClatchy for far less than Pruitt, although neither Pruitt, his hand-picked board nor anyone else across town actually sought our advice.

Perhaps McClatchy will be swayed by the candidates who are out there. In December, SN&R posted help-wanted ads for “Media Company CEO” on Craigslist sites in India— first New Delhi (http://delhi.craigslist.co.in/ofc/513562540.html), and then Bombay (http://mumbai.craigslist.co.in/ofc/524653863.html). The ads explained that, in a bid to ensure daily journalism survives in Sacramento, SN&R (not affiliated with McClatchy) would collect résumés to be forwarded to the McClatchy board (see “Out-CEO-urcing,” SN&R Bites, January 3).Most candidates indicate they would do Pruitt’s job for $30,000 U.S. per year, a savings of a whopping $970,000, without accounting for his performance bonuses. One applicant would settle for a measly $500 a week, while another seeks $35,000 per year plus equity options. Conceding his expertise is not in media, he writes: “I am pretty sure the fees paid to me as a turnaround CEO will be justified, given my sincerity, hard work and turnaround skills.”

An aviation company manager who earns 300K Indian rupees (or $634 U.S.) per month says she compromised for a lower salary in her current position because she loves what she is doing. She’s willing to cut a similar deal with McClatchy. And she notes that “even if I get very greedy and hike up my pay rate,” she would still earn far less than Pruitt but get just as much work done. How? By working daily (“in India we do not believe in weekends”) for a total of 60-64 hours a week from “my sumptuous office in my bungalow in India.”

The experience level of applicants fluctuates wildly. They include a technical writer/editor, a software company project manager and a member of the Bombay High Schools Sports Association under-15 football league’s championship team from 1984-85. A headhunter for real CEOs wanted more information. So did “Juggernaut.” One potential hire wants a home-based job in Bangalore. Someone in the Philippines with “a computer at home and fast Internet access” seeks the same.

The aviation company manager supplied nearly five pages of detailed analysis on strategies to save McClatchy. She concedes one tough-love section won’t win her “brownie points” from future fellow execs, who might also find fault with her fact-checking. “If a person in authority has a bit of a problem delegating authority to go-getters and prefers the company of yes-men, and spending his time on long business dinners, then McClusky is in deep hot water,” she wrote.

Most fittingly, SN&R received the curriculum vitae of a Bombay chap who helps American callers resolve Internet service problems.