Dow Jones Chief, William Lewis, to Step Down

Mr. Lewis, who is also the publisher of The Wall Street Journal, said he was leaving the company in “strong financial shape.”

Credit…Andy Rain/EPA, via Shutterstock

William Lewis, the publisher of The Wall Street Journal and chief executive of its parent company, Dow Jones, said that he would leave the roles he had held since 2014.

“I am so grateful to all my colleagues at Dow Jones for having made me so welcome, and I am delighted to be leaving the company in such strong financial shape,” he said in an email to The New York Times on Wednesday. “Most of all, I am really proud of how we have been able to advance the careers of so many female colleagues at our company.”

The Journal published an article on Wednesday saying that his contract had not been renewed. In an email, Mr. Lewis said that was not the case.

“It is all entirely amicable and I was not informed that my contract would not be renewed,” he told The Times. “Frankly, it’s time for me to get home to London.”

Dow Jones did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

The announcement from Mr. Lewis, who said he would be “sticking around for a bit” to help with the company’s coronavirus response, comes at a fraught moment for media companies as advertising revenue plummets.

But The Journal has emerged in recent years as one of several nationally oriented newspapers with broad name recognition, deep newsrooms and well-financed backers — others include The New York Times and The Washington Post. These media companies are seen as being able to weather and even thrive in an environment that has devalued local journalism and placed an imperative on circulation revenue, particularly digital subscriptions.

In the latest earnings release from News Corp., which bought Dow Jones for $5 billion in 2007, Robert Thomson, its chief executive, promoted Dow Jones’s progress on these fronts, noting double-digit growth in digital subscriptions and a proportion of circulation revenue coming from digital that was greater than The New York Times Company reported, as well as promising digital advertising trends.

In the last several weeks, as the coronavirus pandemic has dominated the news cycle, The Journal removed its paywall for virus-related coverage and had seen sharply higher web traffic and higher rates of new subscribers.

Before he became the chief executive of Dow Jones, Mr. Lewis was an executive at News Corp., which is controlled by Rupert Murdoch. He was previously a reporter and newspaper editor in his native Britain. Mr. Murdoch, 89, the conservative billionaire, remains executive chairman of News Corp. but has ceded much power in recent years to his son, Lachlan, who is co-chairman.

Mr. Lewis and Mr. Thomson presided over a changing of the guard at the top of The Journal newsroom two years ago, appointing Matthew J. Murray to succeed Gerard Baker as editor in chief. Mr. Baker had held the job for more than five years, which were marked by increased readership and award-winning investigations but also strife among some journalists who felt that his past as an outspoken critic of President Barack Obama made him ill-suited to the President Trump era.

In February, Mr. Lewis also had to manage an unusual crisis when three Journal reporters were expelled from China — the first time China had done so since at least 1998 — over a headline in The Journal’s opinion section. The headline, which referred to China as “the Real Sick Man of Asia,” prompted an extraordinary letter signed by more than 50 Journal reporters and editors urging Mr. Lewis and Mr. Thomson to apologize for and change the headline. Neither action was taken.

That crisis has since spiraled into a series of counter expulsions between China and the United States. Last month, the Chinese government, which has also harassed many foreign journalists, expelled more than a dozen foreign journalists from The Journal, The Times and The Post, prompting Mr. Lewis and his counterparts at those two papers to release a rare joint statement pushing for the journalists’ reinstatements.

Source: Dow Jones Chief, William Lewis, to Step Down