Summary:

The AP announced this morning that chief executive Tom Curley will depart later this year and that its Board of Directors has formed a searc…

Tom Curley

The AP announced this morning that chief executive Tom Curley will depart later this year and that its Board of Directors has formed a search committee that will be led by board member and Lee Enterprises (NYSE: LEE) CEO Mary Junck.

Curley began his tenure in 2003 and presided over the 166-year old news cooperative’s challenging transition into the digital realm. His key initiatives included retooling the AP’s infrastructure to serve a variety of multi-meda platforms and the adoption of aggressive copyright enforcement policies.

Under Curley, the AP saw its first back-to-back revenue declines since the Great Depression as its client newspapers struggled and new competitors emerged like CNN’s wire service. The cooperative reportedly earned a profit of $8.8 million in 2009 on revenues of $676 million.

“Tom Curley was the perfect leader to guide AP through the roughest times the media industry has ever seen,” said board chairman William Dean Singleton, in a statement with the release. “He was a visionary who understood the need for AP to quickly adapt to new digital times, a transformative leader who created innovative new business opportunities for our industry and an indefatigable newsman who made sure AP remained the definitive trusted source for breaking news.”

In 2008, AP’s newspaper clients rebelled against a stiff rate increase and some like now-bankrupt Tribune Company announced they would bolt the organization altogether. After telling paidContent that editors were unfairly making the AP a “whipping boy,” the organization soon backtracked completely on the controversial rate plan.

Curley has also presided over a recent period of lay-offs and a variety of efforts to obtain better licensing deals from aggregators like Google (NSDQ: GOOG) News.

In the last two years, Curley and the AP have also garnered attention for anti-piracy initiatives such as the creation of the APNewRegistry and NewsRight, a licensing tool company in which the AP is now a minority shareholder.

Curley’s other legacies include advocating for First Amendment rights in the post-9/11 era and the expansion of the AP into new hot spots. The co-operatve has opened bureaus in Pakistan and North Korea, and won two Pulitzer prizes for photography.

The full press release is available here on the AP’s website.

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