Zach Protzko says he doesn’t have any experience in the publishing world, and he’s never held a job with a newspaper or magazine.
But that isn’t stopping the commercial real estate agent with KW Commercial in Mooresville from throwing his hat into the ring to run one of the best-known publications in the world: The New York Times.
In December, the newspaper, in an announcement that surprised those inside and outside the company, said Janet Robinson would retire at the end of last year.
Protzko thinks he’s the man to fill that void, announcing his bid Monday in a press release with a headline that read, in part, “Mooresville real estate investor seeks to turn around the New York Times.”
Protzko said he’s submitting his name to executive search firm Spencer Stuart, which The New York Times Co. has hired to find its next CEO.
Protzko, 30, claims he has a strategy to turn around The New York Times Co., which has seen earnings fall thanks to ongoing declines in print advertising. In February, the company reported its fourth-quarter profit fell 12 percent to $58.9 million from $67.1 million in the year-ago quarter.
One short-term solution for the company’s woes, says Protzko, is for it to stop charging for online content and, instead, allow readers free access to the site if they register.
“What The New York Times needs is a person at the top who is digitally-native,” Protzko told The Mecklenburg Times. “They need someone who understands where media is headed and that there is a transition going on with the Internet as far as advertising goes.
“With the traffic they have each day, I think they can immediately remove that pay-wall and make plenty of money on advertising. They don’t even need to charge people for online subscriptions.”
Protzko said that with the Internet being part of almost every aspect of modern American life, his aim would be to make the New York Times the No. 1 news source choice on computers, tablets, smart phones and Internet-enabled cars and trucks.
Protzko moved to Mooresville in 2009 from Virginia. He said he has ties to the New York area, having lived in Poughkeepsie, a city halfway between New York City and Albany, until he was 15.
“My family and I would always go into the city,” said Protzko, who still speaks with his New York accent. “I really want to see the area succeed.
“If this does lead to some attention for my real estate business, that is great. But the real focus here is I’ve got some ability that would be beneficial to The New York Times or to some other company that needs fresh ideas.”
Protzko said he handled three commercial real estate sales for all of last year. A quick search on SiteIndex, the property search website for the Charlotte Region Commercial Board of Realtors, shows only one active listing for Protzko.
According to his LinkedIn profile, he’s worked for Virginia-based Uber Precision Manufacturing as director of information security, then vice president of operations. The company manufactured racecar chassis, but Protzko said he helped modernize the company, which he said led to work for the Department of Defense and nuclear power industries.
“I took the way they managed projects and communicate within the company and put that into a virtual system,” Protzko said. “We moved that company into the digital age.”
According to Virginia court records, Uber filed for Ch. 11 bankruptcy protection in November 2009.
Protzko said he mnaged about 50 people when he worked for Uber. The New York Times Co. employs about 7,400, according to the company’s website.
Protzko, who doesn’t have a college degree, says he has what it takes to run the $2.3 billion company.
“I’m a viable option for them to do something fresh, creative and new,” he said. “They need to go in a new direction and harness their user base.”
He said he had not heard back from Spencer Stuart.
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