After 32 years of guiding Community Newspapers Inc. (CNI), co-owners Tom Wood and Dink NeSmith are turning over the corporate leadership to new co-chief executive officers.
Effective July 8, longtime chief financial officer (CFO) and vice president Mark Major will replace NeSmith as president. At the same time, Alan NeSmith, a vice president and CNI regional publisher, will become chairman of the board, succeeding Wood.
“Since the acquisition of CNI in 1989, our success is directly tied to people,” said Wood. “Alan and Mark are shining examples. Together, they bring decades of experience into their new roles. They know CNI and our communities inside and out.”
Originally, Wood and NeSmith partnered with Bill Bresnan and Jeff DeMond to acquire the Spartanburg, South Carolina-based company of almost 50 newspapers. Over the years, CNI has reshaped its footprint to 24 weekly and daily newspapers in Georgia, Florida and North Carolina. In 2006 Bresnan and DeMond sold their minority interests in the publishing company, now headquartered in Athens.
“When Tom was president of Atlanta Newspapers Inc., he and I first became friends, serving on the boards of the Georgia Press Association and UGA’s College of Journalism and Mass Communications,” said NeSmith. “And then we became business partners. Between us, we have more than 105 years of experience in the newspaper business. We came to this change-of-leadership decision collectively, putting our full confidence in Alan and Mark.”
Alan NeSmith is a second-generation publisher. Starting at age 8, he got ink in his veins through his fingertips by inserting sections of the family’s The Press-Sentinel in Jesup. The University of Georgia graduate has worked in every department of the business, including publisher of the Tribune & Georgian in St. Marys and The Northeast Georgian in Cornelia.
Before his promotion, NeSmith was Northeast Georgia regional publisher of eight CNI newspapers and Georgia Mountain Press, which prints those publications. This month he concludes his term as president of the Georgia Press Association, the trade group of the state’s 126 newspapers and 35 affiliates.
Among his many civic roles, he has served as president and chairman of Leadership Georgia, chairman of the Habersham County Chamber of Commerce and president of the Rotary Club of Habersham County. NeSmith is currently chairman of Partnership Habersham. He and his wife, Heather, along with their sons, William and Fenn, live in Habersham County.
Major grew up in Rome and attended Auburn University. After earning his bachelor of science in accounting, he became a certified public accountant (CPA). He began his career with Deloitte and Touche LLP in Atlanta. He also worked with Worldspan L.P. and Cox Communications before moving to Athens to join CNI in 2003. As CNI’s CFO, Major has managed all financial and administration functions for the company. He has been primary liaison in CNI’s banking relationships.
Mark and his wife, Jenny, live in Oconee County. The couple has two grown sons, Chase and John.
“One of the many things that I’ve enjoyed since joining CNI is its family-like atmosphere,” said Major. “From the outset, that’s the culture Tom and Dink established. Everyone knows everyone. We’re on a first-name basis. I also enjoy seeing the core principles of CNI’s mission statement in action. Strong newspapers really do help to build strong communities.”
CNI’s new chairman, Alan NeSmith, added, “Since I was old enough to read, I have seen that newspapers do make a difference in a community. The dynamics of our business are always changing, but I am confident our team is prepared for each new challenge.”
He continued, “As a second-generation publisher, I’ve always known it’s about readership. More readers—in traditional print or in digital formats—mean more advertising. CNI’s team of committed associates knows that our continued success relies on the support of the communities that we serve. Our company’s first name is community. And we will never forget that.”