Christian Broughton appointed CEO of The Independent

18-year veteran of The Independent to lead title into next stage of growth and diversification as Zach Leonard appointed to new position as global chief operating officer and president, North America

Independent Staff
Tuesday 29 August 2023 17:16 BST
The Independent editor Christian Broughton addresses the Final Say rally demanding a second Brexit referendum (Clip)

Christian Broughton has been appointed as the new chief executive of The Independent, the quality, profitable, digital news publisher with five consecutive years of over 20 per cent revenue growth.

Following a global search process, Broughton will assume the role of CEO from 1 October, continuing an 11-year partnership with Zach Leonard, who will move from CEO to a new US-based role of global chief operating officer and president, North America, with a specific focus on growing the US business.

The two appointments establish a leadership team for a fresh phase of global expansion, alongside editor-in-chief Geordie Greig, who was appointed at the start of this year to his fifth editorship after leading Tatler magazine, Evening Standard, The Mail on Sunday and the Daily Mail.

“These key appointments along with our brilliant leadership in data, commercial, technology plus licensing and syndication will assure our successful global expansion,” said chairman John Paton.

Broughton joined The Independent in 2005 and has held pivotal roles spanning the editorial and commercial sides of the business, including features editor, sports editor and assistant editor. As editor, from 2016 to 2020, he established The Independent’s position as the UK’s biggest quality digital news brand and a leading US title.

Consistently profitable and debt-free, The Independent has grown revenue since 2016 when, under Broughton and Leonard’s leadership, it became the only major global news publisher to move successfully from legacy media to being a fully online news brand.

Broughton moved to the role of managing director three years ago to run The Independent’s Ventures arm, delivering innovative editorial and commercial projects with explosive growth and high margin, including business areas such as ecommerce and Independent TV, which has launched across multiple Connected TV platforms and published its first feature-length documentary, Bel Trew’s exploration of Ukraine’s victims of war, The Body in the Woods, with premieres in Kyiv and London.

Leonard, who has led the company’s remarkable growth trajectory since 2010, will be relocating to the United States and assuming the position of global COO and president, North America, where he will lead the audience and revenue growth for The Independent in the world’s largest and most competitive media market.

The brand is well-established in the US and Canada, where The Independent consistently draws in excess of 24 million monthly unique visitors according to ComScore. It is among the top 10 US digital news publishers, and has achieved a 100% NewsGuard Trust rating – critical for consumer and advertiser engagement. With a digital audience the size of the LA Times and industry-leading growth, The Independent is further building resources in the US, with 75 staff by the end of this year across editorial, commercial, content partnerships, marketing and operations.

Zach Leonard has led the company’s remarkable growth trajectory since 2010
Zach Leonard has led the company’s remarkable growth trajectory since 2010 (The Independent)

A third of The Independent’s workforce live and work outside of the UK, and the company is committed to unlocking its global potential.

John Paton, chairman of Independent Digital News Media, said: “Christian is uniquely qualified to step up as chief executive as we continue to embark on the next phase of our global growth strategy, focusing on global expansion and developing diversified revenue streams. He brings a critical combination of journalistic nous and business acumen, having led our successful transition from national newspaper to global news platform and more recently defining and driving forward our commercial strategy.”

He continued: “We’ve seen outstanding growth under Zach’s leadership, expanding to seven different editions around the world and I’m delighted that he will be growing our thriving US business. Christian and Zach have delivered exceptional results for The Independent over the years, and this major move now sets us on a pathway to double revenues. There is a huge future ahead for the sleeping giant of global digital news media.”

Christian Broughton, chief executive of Independent Digital News Media, said: “It is a great honour to be taking on this role for the next chapter of The Independent’s remarkable growth story – expanding the business, opening up new horizons for the brand, and empowering our journalism. I’ve enjoyed so many varied roles here and I know first-hand that we have an incredibly talented team, as is evidenced by our record revenues, growing readership, and the impactful, trusted reporting we publish every day. I’m delighted to continue working with the entire team, and especially Zach, who has led us to the position where The Independent is poised to embrace a truly global future.”

Zach Leonard, global COO of Independent Digital News Media, commented: “I look forward to developing The Independent brand, business, audience and influence in North America, at a time where Independent values – particularly trust and objectivity – are desperately needed. Our unique digital transformation and growth strategies are starting to take hold in the region, and will flourish with more dedicated senior leadership on the ground. I am thrilled also to hand the CEO reins to such a talented successor in Christian upon whom I have depended for more than a decade, and who lives and breathes The Independent.” 

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