September 23, 2013

Politico CEO Frederick J. Ryan Jr. will be leaving his position to “pursue other career options” in the near future, according to a memo he released last night. Ryan has served in what he terms the “dual-hat” role as a top executive of Politico as well as president and chief operating officer of Allbritton Communications Co., Politico’s corporate parent and owner of a group of television properties that it recently agreed to sell to Sinclair Broadcasting.

Ryan will stick around until the television stations sale is complete. The transaction, he noted, marks a “logical time to pursue other career options that have emerged in recent months and explore how best to put my business interests to work in a new arena.”

Politico, noted Ryan, “has been one of the true highlights of my professional career.” From his note:

We set out seven years ago to create what I often called “the ESPN of politics” and we have succeeded beyond any reasonable expectations. Over these seven years, we have expanded our leadership circle to include such pivotal people as Kim Kingsley and Roy Schwartz. As I witness on a nearly daily basis, the indispensable ingredient of POLITICO’s success has been our ability to identify and recruit the very best talent. There are now more than 280 people who work in our newsroom, business and technology operations, with expertise and judgment far beyond anything we brought to the table when we began our work in the fall of 2006.

Over his years at Politico/Allbritton, the 58-year-old Ryan has maintained a relatively low profile — as has Allbritton Chairman Robert Allbritton — while Politico editorial types such as Executive Editor Jim VandeHei, Editor in Chief John Harris and reporter Mike Allen have fronted for the publication. He did his work in closed-door meetings with advertisers and strategy sessions. According to several sources, Ryan was instrumental in bringing in Goldman Sachs as a frequent advertiser in Politico and helped seal other deals.

Though Politico is sometimes slammed on the right as being a mouthpiece of the liberal media, it has had a CEO with roots in Republican politics. Ryan served as a White House assistant in the presidency of Ronald Reagan and went on to work as his post-presidential chief of staff (1989-1995). He’s chairman of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and, as such, helped snare the Reagan library as the venue for the Politico-NBC News September 2011 Republican primary debate. A memo from high-ranking Politico colleagues — VandeHei, Harris, Allbritton, Allen and Chief Operating Officer Kim Kingsley — notes: “His credibility and reputation helped position POLITICO to be a co-sponsor of four presidential debates during the 2008 and 2012 election cycles.”

Within Politico, Ryan is known as a champion of POLITICO, the all-caps formulation that the site uses to refer to itself, the better to stick out among all those regular letters.* His departure memo contained no fewer than 14 upper-case iterations. That other publications have swallowed the mother ship’s all-caps approach — even though it’s not an acronym — remains one of Politico’s great promotional coups.

Ryan will stay on as an adviser to Politico, according to the memo from his colleagues. What it doesn’t specify is how Politico will structure itself as it moves away from the local TV business and toward the webby-news operation that Allbritton sketched out in a memo this year. Earlier this month, the site announced its acquisition of Capital New York, a news and culture source in the Big Apple.

*Disclosure: The Erik Wemple Blog formerly worked as editor of the now-defunct TBD.com, a property of Politico’s parent company.

Erik Wemple writes the Erik Wemple blog, where he reports and opines on media organizations of all sorts.