Chris Ferrell has stepped down as CEO of SouthComm, the Nashville-based publisher of alternative weeklies and B2B magazines which he founded a decade ago, according to a staff report that appeared Friday afternoon in the SouthComm-owned Nashville Post.
Vic Gatto, partner at SouthComm-backing PE firm Solidus and chairman of SouthComm’s board, cited “a change in strategic direction” as the reason for the move, which comes mere weeks after Ferrell himself described a company-wide shift at SouthComm that involved slowly selling off its local weekly newspapers to focus more on its B2B publications, many of which were acquired through the break-up of Cygnus Business Media in 2014.
Those B2B titles, which include Aviation Pros, Printing News, and the Officer.com portfolio, among numerous others, are “frankly a better business,” than the company’s alt-weeklies, like Cincinnati’s CityBeat, Nashville Scene, and the Washington City Paper, Ferrell told the Washingtonian last month.
Whether Ferrell’s ouster represents a walking-back of that strategic shift, or whether he is a casualty of it, remains unclear.
“We are in a stronger position to move forward because of Chris’s efforts,” added Gatto in his statement, per the Nashville Post report. “I am excited about the prospects of unleashing the potential of the company.”
While the company seeks a replacement, COO Blair Johnson and CFO Bob Mahoney will assume day-to-day management, according to the report.
Earlier this year, SouthComm sold off a pair of B2B media brands, EMS World and Green Industry Pros, to HMP Communications and AC Business Media, respectively, as well as the Atlanta edition of alternative weekly Creative Loafing. Bids for the Washington City Paper, which the company reportedly hopes to sell by the end of the year, were due Nov. 1.