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David Laventhol Named Publisher of The Times : He Succeeds Tom Johnson, Who Moves to Broader Corporate Role With Times Mirror

September 01, 1989|THOMAS B. ROSENSTIEL | Times Staff Writer

David Laventhol, president of Times Mirror Co., on Thursday also became the sixth publisher in the 107-year history of the Los Angeles Times. Laventhol succeeds Tom Johnson, who, after nine years as publisher, will become chairman of the Times Mirror newspaper management committee, the group that shapes company strategy in newspaper publishing.

Robert F. Erburu, chairman and chief executive of Times Mirror, said Johnson, 47, also will remain involved with the newspaper in the new post of chairman of The Times. In his broader role, Erburu said, Johnson will play a key role in Times Mirror marketing and in making acquisitions. Johnson is also vice chairman of Times Mirror.

Scope of Duties

Laventhol, 56, who as president of Times Mirror helps supervise all aspects of the company and reports directly to Erburu, will be the newspaper's new chief executive officer.

"Tom Johnson's years as publisher of The Times have been marked by both tremendous growth and world-class journalism that reflect the high quality of his leadership," Erburu said in a prepared statement.

"Times Mirror's long-term interest requires that we put Tom's unique talents to work on behalf of the company as a whole and our entire newspaper group in particular."

"Tom, Dave and I will continue to work closely together in shaping the direction of the company," Erburu said.

Times Mirror's newspaper management committee, which Johnson will now lead, is a group made up of the company's newspaper publishers. Laventhol formerly chaired the committee.

Johnson, in a speech to the newspaper's executives, said, "Things are going so well here--circulation is going up, profits are going up, a new plant is going up--that Bob Erburu thought I should be going up as well. And I am, up to the sixth floor of Times Mirror.

"After 12 wonderful years--three as president, nine as publisher of The Times, it is now time for a change," Johnson said.

During those 12 years, the newspaper's revenues grew from $333 million to more than $1 billion. Circulation rose from 1 million to nearly 1.12 million daily and from 1.29 million to 1.43 million Sunday. And the paper earned eight Pulitzer Prizes.

Laventhol in a statement said, "To be publisher of the Los Angeles Times is to be at the center of the most exciting journalistic enterprise in the country.

"I am happy to have this opportunity, and I'm grateful to Tom Johnson for leading The Times through nine years of growth and editorial excellence."

Laventhol has been president of Times Mirror since January, 1987. But he began his career as a newsman, starting as a reporter and news editor at the St. Petersburg Times in Florida in 1957.

Moved to New York

Six years later, Laventhol moved to the New York Herald Tribune, where he rose to be city editor until the paper's demise in 1966. He then joined the Washington Post, where, as an assistant managing editor, he earned much credit for developing the paper's highly regarded Style section.

Laventhol moved to Newsday in 1969 as associate editor. He became executive editor within a year and editor a year later. There in 1970 he developed Newsday's Part II, a life style and entertainment section, and in 1972 directed the debut of Newsday's Sunday edition.

Times Mirror bought the paper in 1970, and after becoming publisher and chief executive officer in 1978, Laventhol was the principal architect as well of Newsday's entry into New York City in the mid-1980s.

In 1981, he was named group vice president of Times Mirror's eastern newspapers, which eventually included the Baltimore Sun, the Hartford Courant, the Morning Call in Allentown, Pa., and the Stamford Advocate and Greenwich Time in Connecticut.

And in 1986 he became chairman of Newsday and a Times Mirror vice president.

While Laventhol was either editor or publisher of Newsday, the paper won four Pulitzer Prizes, and Laventhol serves on the Pulitzer Prize Board. He was chairman in 1987 and 1988.

"I first became involved with The Times and Times Mirror almost 20 years ago," Laventhol said, "when I met Otis Chandler for the first time in New York . . . Times Mirror had just bought Newsday.

"I wasn't sure I had a job that morning at the Waldorf Towers . . . and Otis wasn't sure either, I don't think."

Now as publisher, Laventhol said, "I welcome the responsibility. . . . This is a great and unique newspaper--one of the world's best--in a great and unique and growing region."

Recruited by Otis Chandler

Johnson, who came to The Times in 1977 as president, had been brought to Los Angeles by Otis Chandler, the paper's publisher for 20 years. Johnson became the first non-member of the Chandler family to be publisher since the family had taken control of the paper nearly a century earlier.

At the time, Johnson was publisher of the Dallas Times Herald, a post he held from 1975 to 1977, after serving as the paper's executive editor from 1973 to 1975.

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