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The Economist begins search for new CEO as Chris Stibbs announces departure

Chris Stibbs departs The Economist

The Economist chief executive, Chris Stibbs, is leaving the role after half a decade in charge.

The weekly print title and website was established in 1843 to break down the political issues of the day. Now it serves a similar purpose, in 2018 repositioning as a bulwark against a rising tide of populism and authoritarianism around the world with the launch of its Open Future initiative.

An internal email picked up by Digiday confirmed that Stibbs will remain in his role until the title can pick out his successor, it estimated that the process may take up to a year.

Stibbs is the latest departure at the company, following chief technology officer Michael Brincat last week and chief financial officer Toby Burton in October. Furthermore, president of The Economist Group, Paul Rossi, left back in July.

In the email, Stibbs outlined that subscriptions are the title’s biggest earners and have helped offset the volatility of the digital ad market.

Earlier in 2018, The Economist Group merged its circulation, events and sales units to have all of its earners reporting into chief marketing officer Michael Brunt. The Wall Street Journal has similarly brought these parts of the business closer so they can benefit from shared talent, data and insight.

A spokesperson for The Economist told The Drum: "The board of directors is conducting a global search for a new CEO and during this period, Mr Stibbs has agreed to continue on as CEO until a successor is named, to ensure a smooth transition.

"Mr Stibbs has spent 13 years with The Economist Group serving in various leadership positions. He was named CEO in July 2013 and is credited with successfully steering The Economist Group through exceptionally turbulent times for the publishing industry. Mr Stibbs was instrumental in securing the Group’s independence when Pearson sold its stake in 2015 and under his leadership has transformed the business from advertising-first, to one in which revenue from subscriptions is the largest contributor to the group’s profits."

The Economist's operating profit fell by 13% in 2017