Firing the CEO, Part 5: Glocer out at Thomson Reuters

Tom Glocer today became the latest CEO to be fired, in a year that has seen a score of corporate chiefs get the boot.   Glocer, who has led Thomson Reuters since 2001, lost the confidence of the Thomson family, the company’s largest shareholder.

Although billed as a retirement, it’s clear that Glocer was forced out after the Thomson family grew impatient with the slow pace of the company’s turnaround.  Glocer will be replaced by the COO, Jim Smith, who has a long relationship with the family.

Firing the CEO is never an easy thing to communicate, and missteps earlier this year by Yahoo, Bank of New York Mellon and HP illustrate just how messy it can get.  But Thomson Reuters deserves high marks for handling it well.  The company issued a detailed news release outside market-trading hours, and it was generous with its praise of Glocer’s tenure.  And Glocer was given a quote in the release in which he was allowed to declare victory, however contrary the facts:

“By the end of this year, the organizational, strategy and budget work I have been leading will be complete, and the transition plan I launched last summer will have achieved its objectives,” said Mr. Glocer.

The proof of good communication is in the response it produces, and it looks pretty good for Thomson Reuters today, The stock price is up, analysts are nonplussed, blogs are restrained – all fairly bloodless.

The company has yet to disclose Glocer’s retirement compensation and benefits, but they are likely to be generous.  When they are disclosed, however, it will make headlines and bring predictable cries over excessive executive pay.  Adding a line to yesterday’s news release summarizing Glocer’s retirement benefits could have avoided that attention.

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Update: How to communicate a CEO firing

In a recent post on Yahoo’s firing of Carol Bartz, I noted that the manner in which the Yahoo board handled it could make it easy for Bartz to offer her point of view in the media.  So it comes as little surprise that Fortune today posted a lively interview with Bartz, explitives included.  It looks like this story will prove entertaining for a little while yet.