Zillah Byng-Thorne to be replaced by US news exec Jon Steinberg at Future


Magazine giant looks to the future: Outgoing boss Zillah Byng-Thorne is replaced by a US news executive.

Magazine queen Zillah Byng-Thorne will be succeeded as CEO of Future by American news executive Jon Steinberg.

After a five-month search for a successor, the publishing giant behind Country Life and Marie Claire landed on the former head of Buzzfeed and MailOnline.

Steinberg will take over in April and, in a nod to shareholders worried about life after Byng-Thorne, vowed to “build on his success.”

Tough act to follow: Zillah Byng-Thorne (pictured) to be succeeded as CEO of Future by US news executive Jon Steinberg

Tough act to follow: Zillah Byng-Thorne (pictured) to be succeeded as CEO of Future by US news executive Jon Steinberg

Stifel brokers said Steinberg has “big boots to fill”, while Hargreaves Lansdown analyst Susannah Streeter said Byng-Thorne would be “a tough act to follow”.

She is considered one of the most successful female bosses in Britain since taking over the helm of Future in April 2014.

At the time, the magazine’s house was riddled with debt, worth £30 million and on the brink of collapse.

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But when she retires, the 48-year-old leaves a business that has become a publishing titan, with 250 titles including TechRadar, FourFourTwo and Go Compare. Its market value has increased 14-fold to £1.75bn, putting it comfortably in the FTSE 250 index of Britain’s largest companies.

Byng-Thorne is credited with successfully navigating the turnaround from print to make Future an online powerhouse.

Their strategy has been to buy struggling magazine brands on the cheap and then use Future’s technology platform to boost their online offerings, helping them keep pace in the digital age.

Future also dominates many areas of special interest, owning the go-to websites for gamers, photographers, space enthusiasts, and more.

This means that advertisers can effectively target users based on their interests, which has helped shield the publisher from a global ad spend cut.

Despite falling more than 60 percent since its pandemic peak, shares have risen 1,300 percent on Byng-Thorne’s watch.

She has been generously rewarded, and at times criticized for extraordinary pay packages.

She has taken home £38.4m since she was named almost nine years ago, and could earn up to £1m more for her work since September. Steinberg will be paid a similar amount when she takes office.

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Byng-Thorne said it was a privilege to lead the company and that he is confident Steinberg will lead Future “ever stronger.”

Chairman Richard Huntingford said he was impressed by the 45-year-old’s years of digital experience and his time in the United States, one of Future’s main growth markets.

New boss: Jon Steinberg will take over in April

New boss: Jon Steinberg will take over in April

The chairman also noted Steinberg’s entrepreneurial spirit, being the founder of the millennial-focused news platform Cheddar, which was eventually bought by billionaire Patrick Drahi for £165m.

The charismatic Ivy League graduate, a regular pundit on American television, oversaw a period of massive growth as president of Buzzfeed from 2010 to 2014.

He then ran the Daily Mail’s US-based sister publication, Dailymail.com, before leaving to start Cheddar in 2016.

Steinberg joined the US arm of Drahi’s Altice in 2019 when it bought Cheddar, running its news and advertising business. He moves from New York to London in time to take over.

Steinberg said: “The Future is a business I have followed closely and long admired for the way it has redefined the media playbook, bringing together the best of publishing and technology.” The stock closed down 1.3 percent, or 18 pence, at 1,419 pence.

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Streeter said investors seemed “disappointed” by Steinberg. But he added: “His experience with him at major digital publishers, having run his own house before heading Altice USA’s news and advertising division is clearly what made him a standout candidate.”

“Future’s strength is the sharp focus on creating respected content on niche topics such as gaming, which has been a huge draw for ad partners, and it will need to display a leadership style to maintain that edge.”