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Rodale CEO Leaves, Replaced By Founder’s Granddaughter

rodale.pngPennsylvania-based magazine and book publisher Rodale Inc. said today that president and CEO Steven Pleshette Murphy has decided not to renew his contract and will be leaving the company at the end of the summer. He will be replaced by Rodale’s chair, and granddaughter of company’s founder, Maria Rodale.

Murphy joined Rodale in 2000 as president and COO, and was promoted to CEO two years later. “After a wonderful decade at Rodale, I have decided not to renew my contract and to take time off to pursue my own creative interests,” he said in a statement. “Now is the perfect moment for Maria to lead the company forward by adding the top managerial responsibility to her role as chairman.”

Maria has worked for the company founded by her grandfather, J.I. Rodale, in various capacities since 1987. She is currently the editor-in-chief of Rodale.com and writes a blog, “Maria’s Farm Country Kitchen,” which is also published by the Huffington Post. She has served as chairman of the board since 2007, when she succeeded her mother. She has also written three books.

“I have been preparing my whole life to lead Rodale,” Maria said. “As chairman and CEO, I will work to build on the strong foundation we have established during the past ten years to take this incredible company to even greater heights…The entire Rodale family thanks Steve for his expert leadership, in particular his ability to ensure the company’s stability during a most challenging time. He will forever hold a place in Rodale’s history as both a creative innovator and a disciplined executive, all the while staying true to our company’s unique mission.”

Full release after the jump


RODALE CEO STEVEN PLESHETTE MURPHY TO LEAVE RODALE; MARIA RODALE TO SUCCEED HIM AS CEO

EMMAUS, PA and NEW YORK, July 30, 2009 — Steven Pleshette Murphy, president and chief executive officer of Rodale Inc., and Maria Rodale, its chairman, today announced that Mr. Murphy will be leaving Rodale. Maria Rodale, granddaughter of company founder J.I. Rodale and daughter of previous company chairpersons Robert Rodale and Ardath Rodale, will succeed him as CEO effective September 1, at which time he will remain available to help with the transition through the end of the year.

“After a wonderful decade at Rodale, I have decided not to renew my contract and to take time off to pursue my own creative interests,” said Mr. Murphy, 55, who joined Rodale as president and chief operating officer in 2000 and was named CEO two years later. “I have worked closely with Maria on a daily basis, and she is a remarkably creative leader and colleague. Thanks to the many talented people on the Rodale team, during my tenure we have transformed the company, achieved tremendous success, and positioned it for continued growth. I am very proud of our many accomplishments. Now is the perfect moment for Maria to lead the company forward by adding the top managerial responsibility to her role as chairman.”

Maria Rodale said, “I have been preparing my whole life to lead Rodale. As chairman and CEO, I will work to build on the strong foundation we have established during the past ten years to take this incredible company to even greater heights. I am grateful for the full support of the family and the board to guide me on our important mission. Steve was brought in by the board to take Rodale to a new level, a goal he has achieved. He has raised the quality of our products, instilled a culture of creativity and built an outstanding team. The entire Rodale family thanks Steve for his expert leadership, in particular his ability to ensure the company’s stability during a most challenging time. He will forever hold a place in Rodale’s history as both a creative innovator and a disciplined executive, all the while staying true to our company’s unique mission.”

During Mr. Murphy’s time with the company, Rodale has experienced the most profitable period in its 69-year history. Under his leadership, the company created a strong, broad portfolio of media properties and branded content, reaching more than 70 million people around the world, including 25 million active customers in its database. During his tenure, Rodale’s book division grew significantly, signed numerous acclaimed authors and thought leaders, including Nobel Prize winner Vice President Al Gore and Dr. David Kessler, among others, and landed more than forty Rodale books on The New York Times’ Bestseller Lists, including The South Beach Diet.

Mr. Murphy also oversaw the reinvention of Rodale’s brands, including Men’s Health and Prevention, and the launch of Women’s Health, one of the most successful consumer magazine launches in recent years. Under his watch, the company expanded dramatically overseas, with 85 editions of Rodale’s magazines now available around the world. Mr. Murphy has directed the company’s ongoing transition of its large direct mail business to digital. Since 2000, Mr. Murphy and the company have won numerous awards, including 3 National Magazine Awards. In 2004, Mr. Murphy was named one of BusinessWeek’s Top 25 Best Managers of the Year, and in 2006, Advertising Age named Rodale as Magazine Publishing Company of the Year. That same year, Mr. Murphy spearheaded a move to diversify beyond traditional magazine print advertising, resulting in the company’s extraordinary success online, and in particular e-commerce and books.

Maria Rodale has worked at the company in various capacities since 1987, including as its director of strategy where she introduced the company’s current successful brand-centric strategy. She is Editor-in-Chief of the company’s newest online venture, Rodale.com, which features the latest daily news about healthy living on a healthy planet, as well as her blog “Maria’s Farm Country Kitchen,” which also appears on Huffington Post. She was first named to the board in 1991 and became its chairman in 2007, succeeding her mother Ardath, who today is the company’s chief inspiration officer. Maria’s father, Robert Rodale, was chairman of the company from 1971 until his death in 1990. Her grandfather J.I. Rodale founded the company in 1930. Maria is the author of three books and has won numerous awards, including in 2004 the National Audubon Society’s “Rachel Carson Award” and in 2007 the United Nations Population Fund’s “Award for the Health and Dignity of Women.” In 2009 she was named to Pennsylvania’s “Best 50 Women in Business” List. She is a member of the board of Bette Midler’s New York Restoration Project, Vice-Chair of the board of the Rodale Institute, and has recently joined the board of the Lehigh Valley Health Network.

“The family and I will miss Steve and all that he has meant to Rodale,” said Maria Rodale. “We have a unique set of resources, a great portfolio and a wonderful team. I know we will continue to succeed and bring Rodale’s increasingly important mission and unique message to millions more people around the world.”

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