Hearst Corporation chief executive Frank Bennack Jr. is stepping down after almost 30 years at the helm.
The New York Times reports that Bennack, 80, announced his plans to retire on Wednesday morning. He will keep his place on the company’s board of directors and executive committee, and Hearst COO Steven R. Swartz will be upped to CEO on June 1.
“He has established himself as a visible and respected executive in media, advertising and the civic communities that are important to Hearst,” said Bennack of Swartz, according to the Times. “He has fulfilled my expectations and those of the board.”
During his tenure at Hearst, Bennack was instrumental in expanding the magazine and newspaper publisher into a more diverse empire with a TV division that included cable network partnerships with ABC, A&E, History and Lifetime as well as an investment in ESPN and a deal with mogul Mark Burnett, who recently debuted the buzzy mini-series The Bible on History.
Bennack’s retirement comes as the publishing industry continues to face a challenging transition from print to digital and also arrives on the heels of the abrupt resignation of Hearst entertainment and syndication president Scott Sassa, who left mid-March amid a sexting scandal.
As THR previously reported, the lurid details of Sassa’s exit are said to have shocked members of Hearst’s conservative executive suite. Bennack, said a source, “has run that company with an iron fist for years.”