Juan Luis Cebrián will continue to head El País and the Editorial Board of the Group
Manuel Polanco is to replace Juan Luis Cebrian as Executive Chairman of PRISA in accordance with the succession plan set out by Cebrián himself early last October. Cebrián will continue to head El País and the Editorial Board of the Group. The proposal to appoint Polanco, until now the Deputy Executive Chair of PRISA, was announced by the outgoing Chairman at the Extraordinary General Meeting held on November 15. The proposal was approved today by the board of directors. The hand-over will be effective from January 1, 2018.
The succession is the latest move in a thorough reorganization of senior management at the company, which has been taking place throughout 2017. Since last September, the Group has a new CEO in the person of Manuel Mirat, a new Secretary General, Xavier Pujol, and a new CFO, Guillermo Juanes. Five new directors also joined the Board after the General Meeting of the Group, held last month. Polanco will focus on corporate governance and relations with shareholders, while Mirat ios to oversee the company’s business affairs as PRISA’s chief executive.
Juan Luis Cebrián was part of the founding team of the Group. He was the founding executive editor of El País and, in 1988, he was named chief executive at the request of Jesús Polanco. Together they designed the Group’s strategy and took major decisions that have made PRISA a world leader in news and education in Spanish and Portuguese. Cebrián developed an Ibero-American business project, following in the footsteps of Jesus Polanco with Santillana, the publisher which joined PRISA shortly before its IPO. Today PRISA owns the top global newspaper in Spanish, is market leader in both digital and print editions, the Number 1 education publisher (K12) in all Ibero-American countries, and the world’s leading Spanish-language news and music radios broadcaster.
Operations recently announced, including a capital increase worth 550 million euros, the sale of Media Capital (the top TV station in Portugal) and the refinancing of company debt, will ensure the definitive financial stability of PRISA, its future sustainability and long-term growth. It is against this backdrop that the decision was taken by Juan Luis Cebrián to hand over the Executive Chair.
At the General Meeting of November 15, the outgoing Chair also informed shareholders that he would make a proposal to constitute the "El País Foundation" aimed at ensuring the editorial independence of the newspaper and other PRISA media. The Board today approved the creation of a working group that will return with a proposal in this regard next January.
At his last Board meeting as Executive Chairman, Cebrian said a few words by way of farewell:
"At Christmas 1975, now exactly forty-two years ago, I signed with Jesús Polanco, then CEO of PRISA, my first contract with this company as executive editor of the still nonexistent still daily newspaper El País, which was at that time the sole objective of the company. I thus had both the opportunity and honor to help launch the newspaper as editor / founder.”
“In autumn 1988, Polanco himself suggested that I become chief executive of the company, while he remained Executive Chairman. Under his invaluable tutelage and guided by his extraordinary vision I was able to dedicate myself to the growth and consolidation of PRISA, which expanded its activities to radio and television, spread throughout many Latin American countries, made significant investments in the European media sector and became the Number 1 media and entertainment group in our country, before crowning this development with the absorption of Santillana, ahead of PRISA’s launch on the markets in 2000.”
“The global crisis of 2008, unleashed after the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers, caught us at precisely the moment when we were undertaking major operations aimed at deleveraging the company. All the evidence pointed to it being impossible to meet our credit commitments without asset sales or a capital increase that traditional shareholders were averse to.”
“We were challenged with very difficult circumstances that forced us to change the capital structure of the Group, reducing the scope of its operations, and we were obliged to carry out significant cost reductions, with severe job cuts, loss of dividends, and loss to company value. Shareholders, employees, professionals and users of our services have had to pay dearly in the last decade. But thanks to such sacrifices, we can say today that the company has been saved and it is expected that the sales of assets and capital increase, now set in place, will endow us with a new structure that will ensure solvency and the continuity and the future of our endeavors. Against this backdrop, I thought the right time had come for a generational change at the head of the company, just as I’d wished for many years, as many of you know. In the interests of the company and in own my personal interests.”
“My continued tenure as Chair of El País and of the Editorial Board of the Group, who do me a great honor, has to do with the concerns of major shareholders, important members of the Board and a large number of professionals and collaborators across our media, concerns that our business and professional identity, our independence, based on credibility and quality standards, are not affected by market turmoil at a time when technological change is seriously affecting the traditional business model.”
“It is a concern that I share, as I have stated on numerous occasions to this Board, and as can be attested by referring to the minutes. This is not to say in any way that the maintenance and safeguarding of independence and professional quality is exclusively and primarily my job, despite the symbolism that my name, like others, may have at certain times. With the proposals adopted today by the Board, we seek to institutionalize the governance of the contents of our media, uninfluenced by any personal interests. The raw material we work with is composed solely of talent and independence, the very basis, as I said, of our credibility in the market. And if these are not safeguarded, then all the financial engineering in the world would not be enough to lift and sustain endeavors such as ours, endeavors essential for the maintenance and strengthening of the political and social system in which our citizens lead their lives."
Following his appointment, Manuel Polanco said: "To lead this stage of PRISA is an exciting personal and professional challenge. It’s a company that I know well and which I’ve always admired because I have developed my entire professional career here, working with prestigious leading international brands and global audiences with enormous growth potential. I am convinced that the future will match the Group’s institutional importance. Taking over from Juan Luis Cebrián is a challenge and an honor. And to continue the legacy of my late father, while demanding, is a source of special motivation and great pride for me. "
Manuel Polanco (Madrid, 1961) holds a degree in Economics and Business Studies from the Autonomous University of Madrid. He has a thorough understanding of PRISA, where he has spent his entire professional career. He began his career in Latin America, a region which has long proved crucial for the development of the Group.
From 1991 to 1993 he headed Santillana in Chile and Peru. He was subsequently appointed editor-in-chief of the Mexican newspaper La Prensa and he was instrumental in the launch of the American edition of El País in Mexico City, the first Spanish newspaper to be published simultaneously in both countries. It quickly became the newspaper of record and set the standard for international reporting in Latin America. In 1996 he became director of Santillana in Latin America and the United States, based in Miami, a period which saw the creation of the last Santillanas in the region. He also improved coordination between offices in different countries.
Back in Spain in 1999, he became president of the media sales arm of the entire Group through GDM (Gerencia de Medios) and a year later he was named president of GMI (Gestión de Medios Impresos) which brought together the newspapers Cinco Dias and AS, magazines and new investments in regional press. In 2005, after the acquisition of Media Capital by PRISA, he was made CEO of the Portugal’s leading television and audiovisual production company. Here he oversaw a period of international expansion into other Portuguese-speaking markets and he consolidated the Portuguese company’s lead in television, with TVI, as well as in audiovisual production for television through the company Plural.
In 2009, he returned to Spain as a Managing Director at PRISA, and he subsequently oversaw the Group’s television interests, including Canal + until its sale to Telefonica in 2015. He led the launch of PRISA’s new production and video division while Deputy Chair of the Group. Polanco has been a director of PRISA since 2001 and a member of its Executive Committee since 2008.
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