Fairfax NZ chief quits

FAIRFAX NZ chief executive Joan Withers has quit the company after more than three years at the helm. She will leave at the end of the financial year – June 30 – after an initial extension to her contract that was to take her to the end of December.

Ms Withers said she was retiring from “full-time executive life”.

Fairfax Media CEO Brian McCarthy paid tribute to Ms Withers’ contribution, saying the company had grown and diversified the business. The company was “well placed for continued success into the future”.

Her resignation comes after the announcement of a 29 percent fall in earnings by Fairfax NZ in the first six months of its fiscal year, compared with the corresponding period in 2008. She said it had been a “absolutely privilege to lead such a great company”.

The company said in a statement she had “signaled some time ago” that was her intention to retire “at this time to resume some of the activities and interests she was pursuing” before she took the role.

Ms Withers had previously been a board member of John Fairfax Holdings Ltd in Australia.

Mid-year figures show Fairfax earnings fell to NZ$63.1 million from NZ$88.5m in the comparative period of the previous year. Revenue fell 11 percent to NZ$267.9m over the period.

The result embraces more than 80 newspapers and 25 magazines in New Zealand, including the Dominion Post, The Press and Sunday Star-Times. Its magazines include Cuisine, NZ House and Garden and TV Guide.

Advertising revenue from classified ads in employment and real estate were hit hard. Ad revenues fell 15 points although circulation revenue went up 3 per cent.

Cost-cutting produced savings of 4.4 per cent, or nearly NZ$10 million.

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