Shakeup at The Journal as Murdoch Moves to Install His Team

Yesterday at The Wall Street Journal, there were resignation announcements, multi-million dollar severance packages, and plans for trans-atlantic trips. And over the next few months, the shakeup is likely to continue.

Rupert Murdoch takes formal control of Dow Jones and The Journal on Dec. 13, but he moved yesterday to install two trusted lieutenants, and to push out remnants of the Bancroft era. At a little before noon, Dow Jones CEO Richard Zannino, who had been in the job less than two years , announced his resignation, probably to take effect next Friday. A few hours later, WSJ.com reported that Journal publisher Gordon Crovitz would also relinquish his post. Mr. Crovitz is expected to write a column for The Journal‘s editorial page, the paper reported this morning.

Les Hinton, 63, a little-known but influential News Corp. veteran who was noted for cutting costs at the company’s News International — which includes the British newspapers The Times of London, The Sunday Times, The News of the World and The Sun — will replace Mr. Zannino as Dow Jones CEO. Robert Thomson, 46, the editor of The Times of London, will succeed Mr. Crovitz as The Journal‘s publisher.

Other changes, The Journal reported, include the departures of Chief Financial Officer Bill Plummer, General Counsel Joseph A. Stern, and the company’s corporate communications chief, Linda Dunbar. And it was reported that there will likely be more high-level changes at Dow Jones over the coming months, as Mr. Murdoch seeks to move his chosen team into key positions.

In the Journal newsroom, according to reporters and editors in both the New York and Washington bureaus, the news of Mr. Thomson’s arrival as publisher had long been anticipated. "I’ve heard great things about them," deputy managing editor Laurie Hays told The Observer, of Mr. Thomson and Mr. Hinton.

Other staffers were less optimistic. In corners of the newsroom, reporters grumbled about what they saw as an ironic twist of fate. Mr. Zannino, 49, who was one of the stronger proponents of the News Corp buyout — Mr. Murdoch expressed his interest in Dow Jones at a breakfast meeting with Mr. Zannino in March — had announce his departure before Mr. Murdoch had even taken over the company. Mr. Zannino will receive a payout of around $19 million in severance, according to The Journal, though The New York Times estimated the total figure at around $26 million.

In a statement, Mr. Zannino said that he has been discussing with Mr. Murdch since September that he would be leaving the company after the closing.

And in a change from the previous arrangement, according to The Journal, Mr. Thomson isn’t expected to have control over the business side of the paper, as Mr. Crovitz did. Instead, he’ll concentrate on editorial matters. He’ll be overseeing Marcus Brauchli, the paper’s managing editor, who is said to be a friend of Mr. Thomson from their time as reporters in Asia, and Paul Gigot, the editorial page editor.

And it’s only beginning.