David Landsberg, who as president and publisher guided the Miami Herald Media Co. through a tumultuous recession and historic digital transformation of the news industry, is leaving to head Goodwill Industries of South Florida.
“After 30 years at the Herald and 7 1/2 years as publisher, my decision to take on a new challenge is really about a completely serendipitous opportunity to lead another organization that I also love,” said Landsberg, who has been a Goodwill board member for the past 18 years. “I leave here tremendously gratified that this organization, which is a pillar of our community, is on solid financial footing.”
A national search is underway for Landsberg’s successor, which is expected to take up to two months, said Mark Zieman, vice president of operations for The McClatchy Co., owner of the Miami Herald Media Co. Landsberg will remain in his current role through mid-April to help ensure a smooth transition.
“It’s difficult to recognize all of David’s many, many accomplishments,” Zieman said. “He has been an exceptional leader, and we’re sad to see him go.”
A Miami native, Landsberg started at the Miami Herald in 1984, fresh out of the University of Florida, later earning an MBA from the University of Miami. He began as a staff accountant and said he planned to stay only a few years.
Instead, he stayed for three decades, occupying every key financial role, including vice president of advertising, general manager and chief financial officer, before being named president and publisher in 2006. That promotion came a few months after McClatchy bought Knight Ridder, the Herald’s former parent company, for about $6.5 billion in cash, stock and debt.
In the role of publisher, Landsberg was responsible for the news and business operations of the company, which publishes the Miami Herald, el Nuevo Herald and a variety of other print and digital products, including Miami.com.
“He really believed in the mission of the Miami Herald,” said Aminda Marqués Gonzalez, the Herald’s executive editor. “Whether it was going to court to sue for records or the investment of a prolonged commitment to a big story like the the devastating earthquake in Haiti, David was a strong supporter of the work we did in the newsroom.”
Landsberg stepped up to the media company’s top post when Jesús Díaz Jr. resigned after fewer than 15 months on the job.
The next several years included the most difficult economic period in the history of newspapers, as the real estate market plunged, automotive and other print advertisers pulled back, and readers increasingly sought free news online.
The Miami Herald Media Co., following McClatchy’s companywide cutbacks, shrunk its staff, slashing about 370 jobs and vacancies in 2008, 250 in 2009, 50 in 2010 and 80 in 2011. Print circulation also shrank during that time, mirroring a national trend.
The combined Miami Herald/el Nuevo Herald circulation was 183,292 daily and 260,741 Sunday in 2013, down from 367,923 daily and 464,365 Sunday in 2006.
Meanwhile, web traffic to the Herald’s four sites and revenues from digital subscriptions and other non-print sources have steadily climbed during Landsberg’s tenure, and the company reaches 1.5 million adults in the local market weekly through its print and digital products. The Miami Herald earned Pulitzer Prizes in 2009 ( breaking news photography) and in 2007 ( local reporting) and was a finalist for three others while Landsberg was publisher. Sunday home delivery circulation grew 6.2 percent from January 2013 to January 2014, according to company reports.
good, tough times
“We shared good times, and we shared really tough times,” Landsberg said. “We shared some brutal times when business called for actions that seemed unthinkable. But we knew that this place was entirely worth saving. So we set about the really tough work … and while not all of that was pleasant, it was critically important to get to where we are now: a much more diverse and more sustainable company.”
Most recently, Landsberg led the company’s move last year from downtown Miami to new headquarters in Doral after the $236 million sale of the Miami Herald’s bayside property. The new $40 million headquarters include a state-of-the art modern newsroom and a newly constructed production plant.
“I actually feel better about the future of the Miami Herald Media Co. today than at any point over the past 7 1/2 years,” Landsberg said. “We’re on solid financial footing. We’ve got a terrific new workplace that really suits a modern media company and an outstanding staff that’s completely dedicated, capable and will continue to forge ahead.”
The move to Goodwill as president and CEO is a natural career progression, Landsberg said. As a member of the board for 18 years, he said he is deeply committed to its social justice mission.
The nonprofit, founded in 1959, helps people with disabilities overcome barriers to employment with training, rehabilitation, work experience and placement services. Besides donated goods, Goodwill’s divisions include service contracts, a healthcare laundry, commercial services, and military apparel and flag manufacturing.
The Miami Herald Media Co. also has a business relationship with Goodwill, which handles the insertion of advertising packets for both newspapers.
Landsberg replaces Dennis Pastrana, who is retiring after 49 years at Goodwill, which Landsberg noted is an enterprise with almost $100 million in annual revenue and more than 2,500 employees.
“The organization has helped tens of thousands of people with disabilities gain greater independence through employment, and I am eager to help grow Goodwill’s capacity to serve more people throughout South Florida,” said Landsberg, a South Miami resident.
Pastrana, 74, began his Goodwill career in Milwaukee and Washington, D.C., before he took over the South Florida chapter in 1979. He has pulled the organization from bankruptcy to one of the largest and most successful Goodwills in the country.
“After 34 1/2 years here, it really is time for me to retire,” Pastrana said. “Today feels like I’m handing over my 34-1/2-year-old daughter to someone.
“And with David taking over the CEO position, I know that person is someone really special, someone who will continue our mission and carry on my legacy. Today is a very special day for me.”
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