Dean Singleton on retiring as MediaNews Group chair, print's decline and the future
This week, Dean Singleton announced that he would be stepping down as chairman of MediaNews Group, the nation's second-largest newspaper company, and publisher of the Denver Post.
More photos below.
Singleton is loved and hated with equal fervor within the journalism industry, but he's always been the most accessible of moguls. And in a conversation with Westword, he was typically frank about the reasons for his decision, the inevitable decline of print and the mark he's left on newspapering.
As you'll recall, Singleton, who suffers from multiple sclerosis, let it be known he would be passing on the mantle of MediaNews CEO back in January 2011; that position was finally filled by John Paton the following September. But he's held onto the company's chairmanship and acted as the Post's publisher for more than two years since then. And while Singleton will serve as non-executive chairman of the Post going forward, he refers to his latest move as retirement.
"I've been thinking about it for quite some time," Singleton says. "It's a variety of factors, most of them personal. I've battled MS for a long, long time, and it's well known that it gets progressively worse over time in terms of mobility. It takes longer to do things, and you have to plan ahead.
"Secondly, I've spent my life building the company and traveling a lot and not spending as much time with my three children as I should have. Now, they're grown, and I'm really learning to have a rewarding, fun relationship with them. I have two grandchildren, too, and personal time is becoming a lot more important to me.
Dean Singleton in his Denver Post office circa 2001, when we profiled him in the cover story "Press for Success."
"And third, I've been working full time for and around newspapers since I was fifteen, and there are a lot of things that interest me, and that I want to spend more time doing while I still can. And it just seems hard to do those things when you're tied day-to-day to the newspapers. So our company's annual meeting comes up in December, and if you're going to retire as chairman and leave the board, an appropriate time to do it is by the annual meeting."
In recent years, insiders have suggested that Singleton, once the undisputed king of MediaNews, was being slowly but steadily marginalized. In his view, "I don't think that's correct. Two and a half, almost three years ago, I announced that I was going to step down as CEO, and it took about nine months to come to a decision about who the new CEO would be. After that, in terms of the sixteen-hour days and traveling around the country doing budgets, I stopped doing that. So I haven't been involved in the day-to-day operations on the business side for more than two years. But I've still been in every day, and if anything, I've gotten more involved in the Denver Post, because I was here and didn't travel as much, and I'm very interested in all things Colorado."
Loosening his involvement in MediaNews Group was "by design," he stresses. "You can't have two CEOs, and John's the CEO. But I still talk with John regularly on what we're doing, and review results and financial statements and all of that. I just spent a little more time on the Denver Post side of things during that period of time. But that takes up much of every day, and it's hard to really free yourself while you're still there all the time."
When asked about the troubles the traditional newspaper industry is experiencing, Singleton pulls no punches.
Continue for more of our interview with Dean Singleton following his announcement that he'll be retiring as chairman of MediaNews Group.