Insight: The Lex Factor roils Dow Jones

Sun Oct 7, 2012 9:56am EDT
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(Advisory: this article contains profanity in the fourth, 27th and 41st paragraphs.)

By Jennifer Saba

NEW YORK (Reuters) - He's tearing down walls. He's tossing out old business models. And he's dressing down people, publicly and profanely, in the once-buttoned-down halls of Dow Jones & Co., publisher of the august Wall Street Journal.

Lex Fenwick (pronounced FEN-nick), a long-time Bloomberg LP executive, is making his mark on Dow Jones, the News Corp subsidiary where he became chief executive officer earlier this year.

Fenwick quickly dismantled the offices in the executive suite, emulating the open-floor plan of his previous employer. He works from a desk in a corner of the seventh floor of News Corp's headquarters in midtown Manhattan, and his conversations - often expletive-laced - can be widely heard.

"This is not what I wanted! Are you a f---ing idiot?" one employee heard Fenwick screaming at a colleague not long ago. Others inside the company say they have often heard Fenwick yelling profanities and shouting at underlings.

Fenwick has been called a master salesman and business builder whose hard-charging style often runs roughshod over colleagues and subordinates. His makeover of Dow Jones comes at a crucial time for Rupert Murdoch's media empire as News Corp prepares to split off its global publishing assets from its entertainment businesses.

Murdoch needs Fenwick's shock treatment to succeed so that Dow Jones, with about $2 billion in annual revenue, can be the growth engine for the new publishing company, analysts said.

Most of News Corp's newspapers are grappling with industry-wide problems of declining readership and print advertising sales, plus the fallout from the hacking scandal at its British publications. One bright spot is Dow Jones' Wall Street Journal, the top U.S. newspaper by circulation, which also boasts one of publishing's most successful digital strategies.   Continued...

CEO of Dow Jones, Lex Fenwick speaks during an interview in his New York offices in this July 20, 2012 file photo. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/Files