Magazine giant looks to the Future: Departing boss Zillah Byng-Thorne replaced by US news executive
Magazine queen Zillah Byng-Thorne will be replaced as chief executive of Future by American news executive Jon Steinberg.
After a five-month search for a successor, the publishing giant behind Country Life and Marie Claire landed on the former Buzzfeed and MailOnline chief.
Steinberg will take the job in April and, in a nod to shareholders worried about life after Byng-Thorne, he promised to ‘build on her success’.
Tough act to follow: Zillah Byng-Thorne (pictured) will be replaced as chief executive of Future by American news executive Jon Steinberg
Brokers Stifel said Steinberg has ‘large boots to fill’, while Hargreaves Lansdown analyst Susannah Streeter said Byng-Thorne would be ‘a tough act to follow’.
She is seen as one of Britain’s most successful bosses since taking the helm at Future in April 2014.
At the time, the magazine house was riddled with debt, worth £30million and on the brink of collapse.
But as she bows out, the 48-year-old leaves a business that has been transformed into a titan of the publishing world, with 250 titles including TechRadar, FourFourTwo and Go Compare. Its market value has soared 14-fold to £1.75billion, placing it comfortably in the FTSE 250 index of Britain’s biggest firms.
Byng-Thorne is credited with successfully navigating the shift away from print to turn Future into an online powerhouse.
Her strategy has been to snap up ailing magazine brands on the cheap, then use Future’s technology platform to boost their online offering, helping them keep pace in the digital age.
Future also dominates many special interest areas, owning the go-to websites for gamers, photographers, space enthusiasts and more.
This means advertisers can effectively target users based on their interests, which has helped shield the publisher from a global cutback in advertising spending.
Despite having fallen more than 60 per cent since their pandemic peak, the shares are up some 1,300 per cent on Byng-Thorne’s watch.
She has been rewarded handsomely – being at times been criticised for bumper pay packages.
She has taken home £38.4million since being appointed almost nine years ago – and could earn up to £1million more for her work since September. Steinberg will be paid a similar amount when he takes on the job.
Byng-Thorne said leading the company was a privilege and that she is confident Steinberg will take Future ‘from strength to strength’.
Chairman Richard Huntingford said he was impressed by the 45-year-old’s years of digital experience and his time in the United States, one of Future’s main growth markets.
New boss: Jon Steinberg will take the job in April
The chairman also pointed to Steinberg’s entrepreneurialism, being the founder of millennial-focused news platform Cheddar, which was eventually bought by billionaire Patrick Drahi for £165million.
The charismatic Ivy League graduate, a regular pundit on American TV, oversaw a period of massive growth as president of Buzzfeed from 2010 to 2014.
He then ran the Daily Mail’s US-based sister publication, Dailymail.com, before leaving to start Cheddar in 2016.
Steinberg joined the American arm of Drahi’s Altice in 2019 when it bought Cheddar, running its news and advertising business. He is moving from New York to London in time to take over.
Steinberg said: ‘Future is a business that I’ve followed closely and long admired for the way it has redefined the media playbook, marrying the best of editorial and technology.’ The stock closed down 1.3 per cent , or 18p, at 1419p.
Streeter said investors appeared ‘underwhelmed’ by Steinberg. But she added: ‘His experience in leading digital-first publishing companies, having run his own house before leading the Altice USA news and advertising division is clearly what made him a stand-out candidate.
‘Future’s strength is the razor sharp focus on creating respected content on specialist subjects, such as gaming, which has been a big draw for advertising partners, and he’ll need to show leadership flair in maintaining that edge.’