Lex Fenwick, the now former CEO of Dow Jones, may have been controversial, but at the end of the day it could have been a failed business strategy that led to his parting of ways with Rupert Murdoch’s division of News Corp. An announcement today on the Dow Jones website said that Fenwick will be replaced by William Lewis, News Corp’s chief creative officer, until a search finds a replacement. Speculation is that News Corp senior vice president of strategy Raju Narisetti is a top candidate to replace Fenwick.
“The most flamboyant of Bloomberg’s old guard”
Fenwick, once described by Vanity Fair as “the most flamboyant of Bloomberg’s old guard,” spent 25 years at the iconic news service before joining Dow Jones in 2010. The bald-headed firebrand is legendary in certain Wall Street media circles for his explosive personality and aggressive style. Upon joining the reasonably staid Dow Jones news service, where he is said to have had many personality clashes, he tore out the offices on the seventh floor of the midtown Manhattan headquarters to usher in a Bloomberg-like open floor plan. A chandelier he installed prompted a Twitter parody account, WSJ Chandelier.
Lack of revenue said to be the issue, not personality
While Fenwick’s powerful personality may have clashed with the corporate culture of the 131 year-old Dow Jones, his tactics were credited with boosting “energy” at the firm. But this didn’t translate into revenue gains – in fact, some say his programs were a revenue drain.
Two major institutional initiatives experienced significant difficulties under his tutelage. Fenwick’s plan to replace Dow Jones’s tiered pricing model with a more egalitarian one-price-fits-all structure led to institutional revolt and a significant loss of revenue in the third quarter of 2013, according to reports. Morgan Stanley in particular was said to have scaled back its business significantly.
The second of Fenwick’s initiatives to run into trouble was DJX, a service designed to rival Bloomberg’s popular news service. The service was launched with a yawn along Wall Street and never caught hold among the institutional set.
After announcing the departure of Fenwick, News Corp intimated a strategy shift could be in the offing. According to a statement on the company’s website, “We’re reviewing the institutional strategy of Dow Jones with an eye towards changes that will deliver even more value to its customers.”