Jarl Mohn is a surprise choice to run an institution largely known for news — but well known in media as a guy who likes to shake things up. That includes his name: he changed it years ago when he was already well known as Lee Masters. The one time NYC disc jockey became an exec at MTV and VH1 when they were considered cutting edge. He later took leadership roles at Liberty Digital and E! Entertainment Television, served on the boards of CNET, XM Satellite Radio, and E.W. Scripps and was chairman of Southern California Public Radio. “This is not a job for me,” he says. “It is a mission. I love public radio and NPR. It is a national treasure and more important now than ever.”
But NPR has had a hard time keeping CEOs. In August Gary Knell left after 21 months on the job to run National Geographic Society. He succeeded Vivian Schiller who was forced to resign over a string of controversies. In September NPR hoped to cut its staff by 10% by offering staffers a voluntary buyout. It was part of a two-year plan to eliminate an operating cash deficit expected to hit $6.1M.
Here’s today’s release about Mohn:
May 9, 2014; Washington, D.C. – The board of directors of NPR announced today that it had selected Jarl Mohn to become its next president and chief executive officer. Mohn is currently chairman of Southern California Public Radio (SCPR) and has had a life-long career in media, including serving as founding president and chief executive officer of Liberty Digital and president and chief executive officer of E! Entertainment Television.
“We are delighted to welcome Jarl, whose background as a successful media executive and innovator makes him ideally suited to lead NPR as it continues to expand its reach and play a unique role in public service journalism and cultural programming,’’ said Kit Jensen, chairman of the board of NPR and chief operating officer of ideastream in Cleveland, Ohio. “Jarl has a deep commitment to the public radio system, love of radio and passion for quality journalism. He has demonstrated throughout his career a keen ability to identify media and consumer trends. He has exhibited a strong track record on diversity and fairness.”
Mohn, 62 years old, will begin his term at NPR in July and will succeed Paul G. Haaga Jr., who has been acting chief executive officer and president since last year.
“This is not a job for me. It is a mission. I love public radio and NPR. It is a national treasure and more important now than ever,” said Mohn. “I want to make sure the staff of NPR, the Member Stations and the others who make it happen have everything they need to do their best work.”
In addition to his service to public radio, Mohn was the founding President and Chief Executive Officer of Liberty Digital (NASDAQ: LDIG), a public company that invested in interactive television, cable networks and internet enterprises. Prior to Liberty Digital, he created E! Entertainment Television and served as President and Chief Executive Officer from January 1990 to December 1998. He was Executive Vice President and General Manager of MTV and VH1, from 1986 to 1990. He began his career as a disc jockey in 1967 and was on the air on WNBC-AM in New York in the 1970s. Most recently he has divided him time between being a corporate director and advisor to a number of media companies, making direct early stage angel and seed investments in digital media/technology ventures. He and his wife Pamela created The Mohn Family Foundation in 2000.
Mohn attended Temple University, where he studied Mathematics and Philosophy.