William H. Fleet Succeeds Ray Steele Jr. as Publisher of The Fresno Bee
The McClatchy Company (NYSE:MNI) today named William H. Fleet as president and publisher of The Fresno Bee.
Fleet is president and publisher of the Bradenton Herald in Florida. In Fresno, he replaces Ray Steele Jr., who has announced his retirement. The change is effective Oct. 13.
"I want to congratulate Ray on his retirement and thank him for 41 years of distinguished service to McClatchy," said Gary Pruitt, McClatchy's chairman and chief executive officer. "While Ray will be missed, were delighted to welcome Will back home to California, where his experience, leadership and vision will serve The Fresno Bee well."
Fleet, 50, will lead his second McClatchy newspaper. In 2006, he was named president and publisher of McClatchy's Bradenton Herald after 19 years as a publisher for several Southern California newspapers. In 2005-06, Fleet served as president of the California Newspaper Publishers Association, the trade group that represents daily and weekly newspapers in the state. He spent 16 years on the associations board of directors.
From 2004 to 2006, Fleet was group publisher for Times Community News and responsible for the operations of five Los Angeles Times-owned community newspapers. From 2001 to 2003, he was publisher of the Santa Barbara News-Press, and from 1993 to 2001, he was publisher of The Signal in Santa Clarita. From 1987 to 1993, he was publisher of Los Angeles Independent Newspapers.
"Will is a veteran publisher with a long track record of success and community service," said Frank Whittaker, McClatchy vice president, operations, who oversees McClatchys newspapers in California and Florida. "He is keenly aware of both the challenges and opportunities facing newspapers in California today. We expect more great things from The Fresno Bee under his leadership."
Fleet is a native Californian, born in the San Francisco Bay Area and raised in the Los Angeles area. He landed his first newspaper job at 18, working as a sportswriter for the Antelope Valley Press in Palmdale, and he performed a variety of newsroom jobs there over six and a half years. Fleet has a bachelors degree in journalism from California State University, Northridge.
"Fresno is a dynamic city, and The Fresno Bee is one of the best newspapers in the West," Fleet said. "By the same token, my wife, Jennifer, and I have enjoyed our home and the wonderful people of Manatee County. And I will miss the staff at the Bradenton Herald, so this California homecoming is both exciting and bittersweet."
Fleet has a long history of community involvement. In Bradenton, he served with the Lakewood Ranch Community Fund and on the boards of the Lakewood Ranch Business Alliance, the Manatee Chamber of Commerce, the Sarasota Chamber Trustees and the Knight Foundation Advisory Board, among other civic groups. Last year, Fleet received the Ruth Newhall Lifetime Achievement Award for his contributions to the Santa Clarita Valley Press Club in Southern California, which Fleet founded in 1996 and which has since raised more than $220,000 in First Amendment scholarships for local high school graduates.
Fleet replaces hometown publisher Steele, who was born and raised in Fresno County, earned a journalism degree from Fresno State and began his McClatchy career as a reporter with The Fresno Bee in 1967.
Steele spent 15 years in The Fresno Bees newsroom, rising to metro editor. In 1982, he moved to the business side and began his executive career as administrative director of The Sacramento Bee. In 1985, he became publisher of The Sacramento Bees community publications, and in 1986 returned to The Fresno Bee as general manager responsible for all business operations.
From 1993 to 2001, Steele worked in McClatchys corporate offices in Sacramento, holding several positions. He returned to Fresno for good in 2001 as publisher of his hometown daily newspaper. Steele nurtured and celebrated his local roots. He immersed himself in the paper and the community. Many at The Fresno Bee swear he knows every employee by name. In 2005, he was honored by Fresno State as the outstanding alumnus from the College of Arts and Humanities. In 2006, he entered the Central California Advertising and Marketing Hall of Fame, recognition for The Fresno Bee's contributions to the community.
"Ray is the consummate publisher and a real McClatchy institution," said Whittaker. "From the newsroom to corporate, hes done practically every job a newspaper has to offer and done it well. We thank him for his tremendous contributions and his stewardship in Fresno. We wish him all the best in retirement."
Steele, 63, said he and his wife, Mary Lou, will remain in Fresno where their two daughters and five grandchildren live. They plan to increase their volunteer activities, travel and play golf.
The McClatchy Company is the third largest newspaper company in the United States, with 30 daily newspapers, approximately 50 non-dailies, and direct marketing and direct mail operations. McClatchy also operates leading local websites in each of its markets which extend its audience reach. The websites offer users comprehensive news and information, advertising, e-commerce and other services. Together with its newspapers and direct marketing products, these interactive operations make McClatchy the leading local media company in each of its premium high growth markets. McClatchy-owned newspapers include The Miami Herald, The Sacramento Bee, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, The Kansas City Star, The Charlotte Observer, and The (Raleigh) News & Observer.
McClatchy also owns a portfolio of premium digital assets, including 14.4% of CareerBuilder, the nation's largest online job site, and 25.6% of Classified Ventures, a newspaper industry partnership that offers two of the nation's premier classified websites: the auto website, cars.com, and the rental site, apartments.com. McClatchy is listed on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol MNI.