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Economist Group chief exec to step down after five years steering publisher through 'turbulent times'

Economist Group chief executive Chris Stibbs is set to step down after more than five years in charge of the magazine publisher.

Stibbs spent 13 years with the company in various leadership positions before becoming chief executive in July 2013.

He announced his departure to staff yesterday but will continue in post to ensure a “smooth transition” until the board of directors completes its global search for a new chief executive, a spokesperson said.

In a statement, the Economist Group credited Stibbs with “successfully steering The Economist Group through exceptionally turbulent times for the publishing industry”.

They added: “Mr Stibbs was instrumental in securing the group’s independence when Pearson sold its stake in 2015 and under his leadership has transformed the business from advertising-first, to one in which revenue from subscriptions is the largest contributor to the group’s profits.”

Stibbs told staff in an email yesterday, reported by Digiday: “We must continue to build a culture of technical excellence that will allow our digital products to match the world-class quality of our journalism and analysis – we must also help the Economist Intelligence Unit continue its trajectory of growth, fuelled by new product lines.”

The Economist Group released its interim results for the six months to 30 September yesterday, showing that revenue was up 2 per cent (£3.2m) compared with the same period last year, and operating profit from continuing operations grew 11 per cent to £11.4m.

Group chairman Paul Deighton wrote that spending on marketing to drive full-price subscriptions to The Economist had gone up by 10 per cent (£2.6m) from the same period last year, to £28.5m.

“After a slow start, circulation started to grow as various initiatives – including a new app to encourage daily engagement, renewed focus on search-engine optimisation and improvements to our website – began to bear fruit,” Deighton said in the report.

The magazine now has 19,000 more subscribers than at the same point last year with growth expected to continue due to “significantly higher marketing spend” planned in the second half of the financial year.

In the company’s 2018 annual report, released this spring, it said the number of full-price subscribers had grown by 36,000 over the previous year to a total of just over 1.1m.

Alongside the Economist newspaper and website and accompanying Economist Radio and Films, the group also contains research and analysis division The Economist Intelligence Unit and events business Economist Events and Euro Finance.

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