NY Times turmoil could mean Dean Baquet stays past retirement age

Recent upheaval inside the New York Times could force Executive Editor Dean Baquet to stay in his job till 2022 — despite hitting the company’s mandatory retirement age for top editors next year.

Editorial page editor James Bennet had been widely viewed as a top candidate to replace Baquet before being forced to resign on Sunday in a flame of controversy.

With Bennet gone — over a June 3 op-ed calling for US troops to quell protesters — and calls growing for more diversity at the top, questions are now brewing about the Gray Lady’s succession plan.

“Until Thursday, there were two candidates for the job: Bennet and Kahn,” one veteran Times watcher said, referring to managing editor Joe Kahn. Insiders say that Pulitzer Prize-winner Cliff Levy, the current metro editor, could also be a viable candidate.

But media watchers and insiders now say AG Sulzberger, the 39-year-old scion of the family that controls the Times, may be pushing Baquet to stick around an extra year so he can broaden his search and bring in younger and more diverse candidates.

The masthead is currently lacking in strong diversity candidates. Among the women is now Kathleen Kingsbury, who was promoted to editorial page editor “through the November elections” following Bennet’s ouster.

The highest-ranking woman in the newsroom is Rebecca Blumenstein, the deputy managing editor, but she only moved from her job as deputy editor-in-chief at the Wall Street Journal in 2017 and insiders said she has yet to fully mesh with the NYT culture.

“It is astounding that they don’t have a more diverse field,” said one staffer. “It is probably not the best time to have two Ivy League educated white guys as your top candidate.”

Kahn, 55, went to Harvard and is an heir to the Staples home office fortune founded by his father, Leo. Levy, 52, is a Princeton man.

Said one insider of Kahn’s path to the top: “Obviously, Joe has been Dean’s partner in running the place through a significant expansion of the staff and platforms. That said, it’s a new day. What seemed customary five or 10 years ago may not apply.”

For now, it means Baquet may not be able to give up the helm for a couple more years, despite having told pals in the past that he wanted to step down after the 2020 election.

The Times has a mandatory retirement age of 65 for masthead editors — and Baquet turns 64 in September.

Asked about the Times’ succession plan for Baquet, a spokeswoman pointed out that he can technically leave at any point during his 65th year. “The tradition has been that the executive editor steps down before they turn 66,” the spokesman said.

But history tells a different story. In fact, if Baquet chooses that route, he will be the first New York Times editor in 50 years to give up the reins after turning 65.

Even the legendary Abe Rosenthal stepped off the masthead to become an op-ed columnist when he turned 64 — after 17 years in the top spot. His successor, Max Frankel, also stepped down at 64 and also became a columnist.

Joe Lelyveld goes in with an asterisk. He stepped down in 2001 at the age of 64, but came back as an interim executive editor after the sudden ouster of Howell Raines in 2003.

Bill Keller handed off the reins to Jill Abramson, the first woman to hold the top job, when he was still only 62. Abramson was unceremoniously ousted by then-publisher Arthur “Pinch” Sulzberger, leading to the appointment of Baquet.

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