Thomson Reuters CEO Glocer Is Out; COO James Smith Replaces Him

Tom Glocer is stepping down as the CEO of Thomson Reuters (NYSE: TRI), and is getting replaced by James C. Smith, the business media company’s COO — a position he has only held for two months. After he steps down, Glocer will remain at the company through the first quarter 2012 to wind down various activities.

Glocer, who had been with Reuters since 1993, has been the CEO of Thomson Reuters since 2008, having taken the job of CEO of Reuters pre-merger in 2001. Before becoming CEO, Glocer ran the company’s news division was president of Reuters America.

The news came up as a breaking item earlier this evening on the Reuters technology home page itself; moments before that the New York Times (NYSE: NYT) posted a note anticipating the move.

The NYT article notes that Smith, who comes from the Thomson side of the family, had been with the company since 1987. He has a journalist background, and has overseen various editorial divisions for the company including legal, tax and healthcare business information.

This is the latest, and biggest, of the executive upheavals that have hit the company in the last several months as it has grappled to tighten up its business in the wake of reduced demand for some of its products. That has included the dissolution of separate marketing and professional units merging of the Markets and Professional divisions at the company (a move that had led to Smith being appointed as COO, as he had been CEO of the professional unit); as well as the departure of Chris Ahearn as president of Reuters Media. The move leaves a big question mark over whether this will finally put an end to the chops and changes at the company to set it on a more even keel, or whether there will be more to come.

Glocer’s ouster comes less than five months after the major restructuring of the troubled Markets division. The fallout from that change included the firing of 17-year Reuters veteran Devin Wenig and a half dozen other top execs. Wenig was also one of the architects of the integration of Thomson and Reuters after the merger three years ago.

Glocer had taken personal responsibility for the Markets division after Wenig was dismissed and he ultimately oversaw the dissolution of the Markets division after it was merged with the Professional unit.

What precipitated today’s change? It could be that the Thomson family, which controls 55 percent of Thomson Reuters’ stock, may have lost patience with Glocer’s turnaround plan: according to this Reuters article, Glocer saw recovery happening only in 2013.

The FT takes a more even tone with the change: it cites sources who say the decision to leave was mutual.  

Over the past few months, during quarterly earnings calls, Glocer has pleaded for more time in fixing the problems associated with the Markets division. Those problems are related to something that is largely out of any executive’s hands: staffing levels at securities firms have not returned to pre-recession levels and headcounts are expected to be reduced further in the fall.

As a result, there are few individual customers for the the division’s investment-related products like Eikon and Elektron. While the division will still be structured around those two products, sales has taken a hit, since the only option at the moment is to reduce and streamline. But it appeared that answer was not creative or quick enough for the Thomsons.

Another question that’s been hanging over Thomson Reuters has been the question of layoffs. Rumors have been circulating around the company about “thousands” of layoffs in the markets division, but sources say that is not accurate, arguing that in a company that employs 57,000 staffers around the world, there are always a constant “ebb and flow” of personnel depending on where the growth is. Still, it’s safe to say, given the trouble of products like Insider, the video offering, as well as Eikon, the “ebbs” have likely been focused there.