G / O media workers ask owners to replace the CEO

Employees of the G / O Media publishing union urged the company’s private equity owners to replace the Executive Director of G / O

Jim Spanfeller

in a letter on Monday, which said a change of leadership was required to improve the performance of the Jezebel, Gizmodo and Lifehacker publisher.

The letter, addressed to the owner of G / O Media, Great Hill Partners, said Mr. Spanfeller’s leadership of the company has resulted in a decrease in web traffic and greater turnover among employees, according to the letter, whose copy was reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.

“We ask that Jim Spanfeller be replaced by a CEO who is committed to the excellence and growth of the company, while making G / O a place that retains and attracts the best talent,” the letter said.

“We are disappointed that the union has chosen to use tactics designed to divide and harm both the company and its co-workers,” said a spokesman for Great Hill Partners. “Instead of working together to move forward, the union continues to seek to change the [collective bargaining agreement] that was negotiated only eight months ago in ways that, if successful, would give them fundamental control of the company. “

Some 55.1 million people visited the company’s sites in November, a decrease of approximately 16% from the same month last year, according to the analysis firm Comscore. The letter said that more than 95% of the employees in the company’s editorial union, some 125 people, voted to express a lack of confidence in Mr. Spanfeller’s leadership last week.

Spanfeller, a lifelong media executive who worked at Forbes and Mashable’s owner, Ziff Davis, became CEO of G / O Media after Great Hill Partners agreed to acquire the sites, then known as Gizmodo Media Group, from Univision Communications Inc. last year. for an undisclosed sum. Mr. Spanfeller is also a shareholder of the company.

The company said in September that it recorded an operating profit for the first time since 2015 under the leadership of Mr. Spanfeller. The best performance of the business was due in part to the decrease in expenses, including suppliers, the lower costs of the facilities, the reduction of independent budgets and a temporary reduction in staffing. In the fourth quarter, the company said it doubled its earnings compared to the third quarter.

The company has about 400 employees. The editorial union represents about 133 employees on the company’s websites, which include the Gizmodo technology site, the Lifehacker DIY site and the Jezebel women’s-focused site. It includes the editors in chief of the sites and their writers, along with the company’s social networks and video producers. It does not include the commercial or technological units of the company.

Relations between unionized G / O Media employees and the administration have deteriorated since last October, when writers and editors of the Deadspin sports site resigned in a group to protest against Mr. Spanfeller’s rule that site employees should “stick to sports” in your coverage.

The main editor of the company resigned shortly after, saying he was going to look for a “business opportunity.” A spokesman for Mr. Spanfeller said the decrease in traffic was partly due to the fact that Deadspin has not published a new story in months.

Last week, Spanfeller sent a letter to the Writers Guild of America, East, the union that represents the editorial employees of G / O Media, saying it was moving Deadspin’s headquarters to Chicago and was suspending negotiations with unionized employees. In response, the guild said Spanfeller “moved away from discussions about editorial integrity.”

A person familiar with the performance of G / O Media said that the decrease in web traffic was partly due to a technical failure associated with efforts to optimize the company’s web pages for search performance. The fault, which is prior to the ownership of Great Hill Partners, has been fixed, the person said.

G / O Media has hired about 48 new people since July, the person said, adding that, excluding departures from Deadspin, the increase in turnover in G / O Media is proportional to other companies experiencing a change of ownership . The person added that Deadspin has not been profitable in the last three years.

Write to Benjamin Mullin at [email protected]

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