Gracia Martore is president and chief executive officer of Tegna Inc., a publicly traded broadcast and digital media company, formerly known as Gannett Co. She was named president and CEO of the company in October 2011 and was a driving force in growing the nation’s largest local media company. Under Martore’s leadership, the company doubled its broadcast portfolio and acquired full ownership of Cars.com; she also led the separation of the company into two publicly traded companies: Tegna, composed of broadcast and digital companies and Gannett, comprising the publishing assets.
Tegna currently owns or operates 46 television stations and is the largest group owner of stations affiliated with NBC and CBS as well as properties in digital media, such as Cars.com and CareerBuilder. At the time of the separation, Martore said the changes were “significant next steps in our ongoing initiatives to increase shareholder value by building scale, increasing cash flow, sharpening management focus, and strengthening all of our businesses to compete effectively in today’s increasingly digital landscape.”
Martore is the Wellesley College-educated daughter of parents who were the first in their families to graduate from high school. She was raised in the Boston suburb of Belmont, Mass., in a house built by her father, who died when she was in her teens. “My parents taught me some great values about hard work and personal responsibility and doing whatever it takes to get the job done,” Martore told Barron’s in 2012.
While at Wellesley, Martore learned that positive change could be effected through hard work and personal commitment. “Wellesley was focused on educating women to make a difference, whether in social services or business or at home,” Martore said in the Barron’s article. “It had a huge impact on my confidence, and on my ability to deal with any situation, to learn how to think through problems, and to understand things. It was a great experience for me.”
After graduating with degrees in history and political science, Martore accepted a job at a Boston-area bank, which introduced her to business — and taught her valuable lessons in leadership. “I was a lender, and I loved being able to help companies to grow,” she told Barron’s. “You’re not lending just to a company; you are lending to people, and understanding what drives them. When I lent money, I could see differences in what leadership means.”
Martore’s career in the banking industry took her to Maryland National in Washington, where she moved in 1979 with her husband, Joseph. She turned down numerous job opportunities that arose over the ensuing years, until Gannett approached her in 1985. The media company was relocating to the D.C. area and hired her as assistant treasurer.
She was named a vice president in the Treasury group in 1993, and added investor relations duties in 1995. Martore subsequently was named treasurer and vice president of investor relations (1998), and was promoted to senior vice president of finance in addition to her treasurer’s responsibilities (2001).
Two years later she became senior vice president and chief financial officer, and was appointed to Gannett’s management committee. Martore became executive vice president and CFO in 2005, and in 2010 she was named president and chief operating officer. She was named president-CEO in October 2011.
As of last June, Martore was one of 24 women CEOs leading a Fortune 500 company. While many women leaders today are urging women to “sit at the table” and “get themselves noticed,” Martore says her “nose to the grindstone” approach was what helped get her to the C-suite. “I believe in putting my head down and focusing on the job,” she said in a 2012 Forbes article. “I found that if I did the very best job I could — and didn’t worry about what my next four moves were going to be — that there were people in the organization who would take notice and add more responsibility. Each time I got to the point of, ‘OK, now I know this area,’ boom — a new challenge would miraculously come along, with a new responsibility and a new opportunity.
“What really matters is how you perform your job and how you produce results,” she observed in the Forbes article. “Whoever could do the best job, that’s who the focus is on — and it definitely doesn’t matter if I am a woman or a man. That kind of opportunity allowed me to be unfettered in my ability to take on responsibility, rise in the organization, and not to be worried about things like, ‘Gee, women can’t do this in this organization’ or ‘Ugh, now I have to crash through this barrier.’ ”
Martore stepped into the CEO’s office in the midst of a changing media landscape and on the heels of a tumultuous collapse that left many companies — and people — reeling. Not long afterwards, she held the company’s first investor day, at which she laid out a plan to return capital to shareholders. She also announced a plan to buy back $300 million of shares in a two-year span, with a goal of returning $1.3 billion to shareholders by 2015. As a result of these and other initiatives, the outlook for the company brightened in an otherwise grim market for newspaper publishers, and demonstrated Martore’s ability to lead through a period of tectonic change and fiscal turmoil.
Despite ongoing financial challenges and shifting media winds, Martore remains a cautious optimist. “I’m not just an optimist, I’m a realist,” she told the Washington Post in 2011. “We have a great company and a great strategy. We have the right brands and the talent in this organization to be winners and to succeed. These are exciting times for anyone in the media business. I say to my family and to the people of this company that out of great challenges come great opportunities.”
Martore has won numerous business and industry honors for her leadership. She was named one of the 50 Most Powerful Women in Business by Fortune magazine in 2012, 2013 and 2014. She was named to Forbes’ 100 Most Powerful Women list; was included in Variety’s Women’s Impact List 2013; and was named one of Washington’s 100 Most Powerful Women by Washingtonian Magazine. Institutional Investor magazine named Martore one of the best CFOs in America and ranked her the Best CFO in America in the publishing and advertising agencies category for three years in a row (2004-06).
Martore currently serves on the board of directors of Tegna, The Associated Press, FM Global and WestRock Co. In October 2014, she was elected to the board of trustees of The Paley Center for Media.
The Library of American Broadcasting will honor this year’s Giants of Broadcasting & Electronic Arts at a luncheon at New York’s Gotham Hall on Oct. 15. For tickets, congratulatory ads and other information, please contact Joyce Tudyrn at [email protected]. The luncheon is presented by the International Radio and Television Society Foundation. TVNewsCheck is publishing these profiles as an in-kind contribution to the library. You may read other profiles in the series by clicking here.