Post Murdoch takeover, Nat Geo CEO sounds layoff knell for 180 employees

MUMBAI: Heads have started rolling at the National Geographic Society after Rupert Murdoch officially took over the company on 3 November, 2015.


National Geographic CEO Gary Knell has sounded the ‘knell’ for layoffs, in what is being called the biggest in the history of National Geographic Society. As many as 180 people comprising almost nine per cent of the staff have been given the pink slip, some of them award winning photographers, designers and editors. The company has also offered buyouts for some employees.


Many of the employees, who have been asked to leave, took to social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook to make public the news. 


In a tweet, National Geographic photo editor Sherry L. Brukbacher said that she was one of the staff members, who've been relieved from their duties.


Her tweet went like this: “Experienced National Geographic Photo Editor looking for employment. Fox merger elim [sic] many today. Will miss my amazing colleagues!" - @SBrukbacher.


Some of the others that have been shown the door are National Geographic picture editor Kim Hubbard, National Geographic Creative's picture editors Nancy Lee Ott and veteran National Geographic photographer Michael ‘Nick’ Nichols amongst others.


In an internal email to all employees, Knell wrote:


To all NGS Staff:

After very careful and serious consideration, we are ready to communicate how our restructuring and transformation will affect each employee at National Geographic. To that end, please make every effort to be available tomorrow, November 3rd, either in your regular work location, and/or by phone.


If you are traveling for business, on vacation or plan to be out for any other reason, please notify Tia Freeman-Evans or Yvonne Perry in HR immediately, so we can make alternative plans to get in touch with you. If you know that someone on your staff will be out of the office on November 3rd, please let Tia or Yvonne know by 3 p.m. (Eastern) today, as well.


Please watch your inbox for important information about your employment status tomorrow.


I cannot thank you enough for your patience and hard work over the last few months. I am proud of how our teams and our organization have approached and responded to this transitional period. Looking ahead, I am confident National Geographic’s mission will be fulfilled in powerful, new and impactful ways, as we continue to change the world through science, exploration, education and storytelling.




Then, in a follow up email with the subject line ‘An Important Message from Gary Knell,’ he further intimated the staff with this message:


To all NGS Staff–


To change the world through science, exploration, education and storytelling has never been as important as it is today. We are transforming National Geographic to be better positioned than ever to deliver on this mission./CONTINUES


Since announcing our plans to establish National Geographic Partners and to set a new strategy for the National Geographic Society, teams have been working tirelessly to develop our plans for moving forward. There is no doubt that this strategic move will amplify our mission and message across all media platforms with greater resources than today, all while ensuring the sustainability of the Society for many years to come. Leadership teams for both Partners and the Society will be named when we close the transaction in mid-November.


This is a journey – we’re changing our structure along with how we work. The commitment to our brand and to the impact we make on the planet remains unchanged – but how we deliver on that will, indeed, be transformative.

Part of these efforts also means making the toughest of decisions about the staffing needs of the organizations going forward. Some of our colleagues will be leaving National Geographic over the next few days and, in some cases, weeks.


We did not make these decisions without very serious consideration and care. We are providing all affected colleagues with meaningful severance packages to assist with the transition. We are also offering some colleagues the opportunity to choose an early separation based on a combination of age and years of service with National Geographic.


Across the board, we are treating each and every colleague with the dignity and respect deserved for their contributions to our organization and to the mission. I ask you to share my personal gratitude and appreciation for these colleagues’ contributions and service. And with the greatest respect to everyone involved, I ask for your commitment to what lies ahead.


Thank you for your collective patience throughout these past few weeks, as well as the professionalism and consistent follow-through displayed every day in virtually every corner of our operations as we have continued to deliver world class science, research and storytelling to a world that needs us now more than ever. I believe we must be bold and we must act now to better guarantee success for our mission. We will evolve. We will create impact. We will change the world.




In September this year, Murdoch's 21st Century Fox acquired a majority stake in The National Geographic Society for approximately $725 million. The new entity is 73 per cent owned by 21st Century Fox and 27 per cent by The National Geographic Society.

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