Former chief of L.A. Times Me­dia Group


Los Angeles Times - - CALIFORNIA - By Christopher Gof­fard

Kathy Thom­son, the former pres­i­dent of the Los An­ge­les Times Me­dia Group who helped steer the news or­ga­ni­za­tion’s meta­mor­pho­sis from print into a dig­i­tal-age player, died Sun­day. She was 51.

Thom­son, of Man­hat­tan Beach, died at UCLA Med­i­cal Cen­ter of com­pli­ca­tions from an aneurysm she suf­fered June 17.

Thom­son was chief of staff at The Times from 2008 to 2009. She re­turned in 2011 as pres­i­dent and chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer, a job in which she over­saw ed­i­to­rial op­er­a­tions, ad­ver­tis­ing sales, mar­ket­ing and busi­ness ser­vices.

She su­per­vised the topto-bot­tom re­vamp­ing of la­ and the push to ex­pand dig­i­tal prod­ucts at the eight daily news­pa­pers op­er­ated by Tri­bune Co., then The Times’ cor­po­rate par­ent.

“She brought in a sales or­ga­ni­za­tion to fig­ure out how to sell dig­i­tal ad­ver­tis­ing,” said Eddy W. Harten­stein, the former pub­lisher and chief ex­ec­u­tive of The Times. “She re­cruited peo­ple to come get us hooked into so­cial me­dia.”

Al­though Thom­son had a back­ground in fi­nance rather than jour­nal­ism, she had a strong sense of the me­dia busi­ness from the 15 years she spent at DirecTV ear­lier in her ca­reer, said Harten­stein, the found­ing pres­i­dent and chief ex­ec­u­tive of Direc­tTV.

Thom­son brought to The Times “the be­lief that so­ci­ety and democ­racy do not work with­out a vi­able Fourth Es­tate,” Harten­stein said. “The best de­scrip­tion of her man­age­ment style is she did it with a vel­vet ham­mer. She was fierce, she was com­pas­sion­ate, she did not suf­fer fools well.”

Nancy Sul­li­van, The Times’ former vice pres­i­dent of com­mu­ni­ca­tions,

said Thom­son devoted re­sources to build­ing the news­pa­per’s events busi­ness, in­clud­ing a pop­u­lar film-screen­ing se­ries and the La­bor Day food event The Taste.

“Kathy was an in­spir­ing and steady force in a time of chaos and tur­moil,” Sul­li­van said. “When there was so lit­tle that was steady in the me­dia land­scape, she was steady.”

Sul­li­van said that when Thom­son wasn’t work­ing, she spent time as a com­mu­nity volunteer with her fam­ily. “She did it in a very un­sung man­ner,” Sul­li­van said. “She didn’t say, ‘Look at me.’ ”

In April 2013, Tri­bune Co. named Thom­son chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer of the com­pany’s pub­lish­ing di­vi­sion. Later that year, she left to work for the satel­lite-ra­dio com­pany Sir­ius XM, where she was chief mar­ket­ing of­fi­cer and ex­ec­u­tive vice pres­i­dent.

“She built the Sir­ius XM mar­ket­ing or­ga­ni­za­tion into pos­si­bly the best in all of sub­scrip­tion me­dia,” said Sir­ius XM Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Jim Meyer.

Meyer, who had known Thom­son for years, said she “had a re­mark­able mix of hu­man­ness and a re­ally strong an­a­lyt­i­cal sense.… Kathy knew how to get peo­ple to do their best and to per­form. She al­ways cared about how they were doing, but she also held peo­ple ac­count­able for re­sults.”

Be­tween her two stints at The Times, Thom­son was vice pres­i­dent of busi­ness op­er­a­tions at Flo TV Inc., a sub­sidiary of Qual­comm.

Pre­vi­ously, she held var­i­ous po­si­tions at DirecTV, ris­ing to be­come se­nior vice pres­i­dent of sales and mar­ket­ing.

Thom­son earned an un­der­grad­u­ate de­gree from the Univer­sity of Utah and a mas­ter of busi­ness ad­min­is­tra­tion de­gree in mar­ket­ing and fi­nance from Loy­ola Mary­mount Univer­sity in Los An­ge­les.

Harten­stein said she un­der­went a kid­ney trans­plant in the 1990s but rarely talked about it. Thom­son had seemed to be im­prov­ing af­ter her aneurysm, but she suf­fered a brain hem­or­rhage over the week­end, Harten­stein said.

Thom­son is sur­vived by her hus­band, Michael Thom­son, 50; her son, Ni­cholas, 19; her daugh­ter, Lau­ren, 16; two brothers, Robert Kohler, 53, and Roger Kohler, 49; and her par­ents, Dorothy and Roy Kohler.

Ser­vice ar­range­ments are pend­ing.

Kirk McKoy Los An­ge­les Times

‘A STEADY FORCE’ Kathy Thom­son had two stints at The Times.

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