A shakeup at Politico, first reported by The Huffington Post
, will see CEO and cofounder Jim VandeHei
, chief White House correspondent Mike Allen
, chief operating officer Kim Kingsley, chief revenue officer Roy Schwartz
, and executive vice president Danielle Jones
all gone by the end of this year. Top editor Susan Glasser is also expected to leave the newsroom after the 2016 election
— her husband Peter Baker is in line to take over as Jerusalem bureau chief for The New York Times.
Clashes over budget spending and expansion efforts appear to be at the root of the leadership upheaval. Politico is based in Washington, D.C., but has been launching outposts across the U.S. and into Europe.
In dueling memos posted to Politico’s site, VandeHei and Politico founder and publisher Robert Allbritton both credited the many people responsible for the organization’s rapid rise and expansion in its nine years of existence, while offering tiny bits of information on what’s to come for Politico and for the still-unnamed new venture VandeHei plans to start after his departure.
The New York Times reported that VandeHei is starting the new company with Allen and Schwartz, who was a driving force behind the high-end subscription business Politico Pro that now makes up approaching half Politico’s revenue.
As VandeHei wrote in his memo to explain the timing of his departure:
First, I caught the entrepreneurial bug a decade ago when we started this place and can’t seem to shake it. There is no greater challenge than trying to match in a new space the magic and success we pulled off here. This moment in media and in history is putting every sector and idea in play — and it is too intriguing and wide open to play it safe. I plan to start a new venture when I depart.
Second, and as important, I can leave now knowing a template for growth has been set, a first-class leadership team assembled and prepared for this transition, and POLITICO is powerful and durable enough to outlast us all. The true measure of business success is building a company that can prosper when the founders go. We stocked the place with talent during the past three years, in anticipation of this moment.
Allbritton’s memo set up the exodus as a long time coming:
These transitions make perfect sense for the publication, coming a decade (almost to the day) after I recruited them to join this cause. Jim in particular began signaling to me some years ago that he hoped the next stop in his career would be to once again start a new venture. Mike has launched and maintained the Playbook franchise — 365 days a year — longer than seemed humanly possible….
What I have said to my leadership team is something I want to emphasize I’ll say to all of our nearly 500 POLITICO employees (a total ten times what we had at our launch): We are about to experience the most exciting, and I expect most enjoyable, period of expansion in ten years. With our revenue rapidly expanding, I am eager to make robust new investments in editorial quality, in technology, in business talent, and in new markets that we have not yet conquered.
Staffers who spoke to other media outlets painted a picture of tension and unease. One unidentified source, for instance, told The Huffington Post that “Robert had enough with them spending shitloads of money.” And over at CNN, Dylan Byers wrote that “[i]n recent years…Politico was plagued by what several insiders described as a crisis of vision and a leadership void.”
Last fall, an internal memo by VandeHei and editor-in-chief John Harris outlined Politico’s ambitions to be a “journalistic presence in every capital of every state and country of consequence by 2020. With each passing month, we grow more confident our model can save journalism in state capitals and spread it in new countries.”