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Star Tribune hires Sports Illustrated vet as chief revenue officer

A few months ago, the Star Tribune’s new owner hired a Sports Illustrated veteran and Twins fan as publisher.

A few months ago, the Star Tribune’s new owner hired a Sports Illustrated veteran and Twins fan as publisher. Tuesday, that publisher hired another Sports Illustrated veteran and Twins fan as the new sales boss.

Publisher Mike Klingensmith says Jeff Griffing’s title will be chief revenue officer. Essentially, Griffing — currently vice-president of sales and publisher of the Sports Illustrated Group — replaces Senior Vice President of Advertising David Walsh, who resigned “of his own free will,” says spokesman Ben Taylor.

Walsh, a Chicagoan, had worked for the Strib since 2008 and was a candidate for the publisher job Klingensmith got. “I still have the Illinois tags on my car, and I vote in Illinois,” Walsh acknowledges. “It’s really important to have strong local ties to the community. It’s not surprising Mike knows a lot of good people in the ad space, and I’m excited about the Star Tribune’s direction.”

Walsh absorbed digital responsibilities after another spurned publisher candidate, digital division president Dan Shorter, resigned to go to a New York Times regional outpost late last year. (Editor Nancy Barnes was the other internal candidate for the publisher’s job.) Walsh says Griffing’s title is a “more modern one” formally reflecting print and digital roles.

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What does the change mean for cash in the Strib’s pockets? A news release highlights the “highly successful weekly magazine and its robust website” during Griffing’s time at SI, though it should be noted both are under pressure from modern behemoth ESPN. Taylor says the Strib’s business side will be rolling out “an ambitious strategy very soon,” but declined to discuss details today.

Here’s the internal memo:

To the Staff, 

I am pleased to welcome another Midwesterner to the management team of the Star Tribune. Jeff Griffing, currently the VP of Sales and Publisher of the Sports Illustrated Group, will join us on March 29th, replacing David Walsh. Jeff’s title will be Chief Revenue Officer, and he will have responsibility for all Star Tribune advertising and digital revenue. 

Jeff, a native of Walworth, Wisconsin and graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Lacrosse,  spent the first eight years of his professional career in Minneapolis working first for Hyatt Regency, then NOVUS Marketing.  

Jeff is a broad-gauged sales executive who has spent considerable time in an array of media businesses — including newspapers, magazines and digital. He has overseen national, regional and local platforms. In his current role at Sports Illustrated, he is responsible for over $200 million in print revenue and another $50 million in digital revenue. Before joining SI, Jeff was VP sales, then Publisher, of Transworld Media, a multi-platform media company based in Southern California which publishes — seven magazines and websites and creates events and feature films for the active youth sports market. 

Jeff’s grounding in local media came at Media Networks Inc., a Time Inc. company founded by 3M and originally based in Minneapolis. Jeff was the Midwestern Regional Sales Director for Media Networks where his Chicago territory included the Twin Cities. Media Networks’ business is selling local advertising into networks of national magazines and their websites — including the weekly magazines of Time Inc. as well as others such as Business Week, Newsweek, Forbes and many more.   

Before Media Networks, Jeff was the Midwest Sales Manager for USA Today based in Chicago, where again his territory included the Twin Cities. He was originally hired by USA Today — from NOVUS — to be their imported automotive manager in Los Angeles. From that spot he was promoted to be the Asia/Pacific Director for that leading national newspaper.  

Jeff is in the process of relocating with his growing family. They have one pre-schooler, and his wife is expecting their second child — who will now be born as a citizen of Minnesota. He is excited to be rejoining the Minneapolis community and his many friends here. He has assured me that he is a Twins fan and claims to have attended both the 1987 and 1991 World Series — which allows me to overlook the fact that he is a longtime Green Bay Packer season ticket holder.  

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Please join me in welcoming Jeff Griffing back to the Upper Midwest and to the Star Tribune.  

Mike Klingensmith