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Deseret Management Corporation announces the retirement of CEO Mark Willes, appoints Keith B. McMullin

Published: Thursday, April 5 2012 6:31 p.m. MDT

Keith B. McMullin is interviewed after being appointed as the new CEO of Deseret Management Corporation in Salt Lake City, Thursday, April 5, 2012.

Ravell Call, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Keith B. McMullin was introduced Thursday as the new CEO of Deseret Management Corp., replacing Mark H. Willes, who is retiring.

McMullin was released last weekend as second counselor in the Presiding Bishopric of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, ending his 17-year tenure as a church general authority. He moves into his new post after being a member of the DMC board of directors for the past 15 years. McMullin was the director of the church's Welfare Services Department for 10 years and earlier was an investment and financial analyst with Ford Motor Company.

McMullin said the companies he now oversees have weathered wrenching changes, and are now well-positioned to continue to adapt to a new and innovative world. "With technology today, so many wonderful things can be done, and there are people around the world that are looking for the very things these companies are delivering."

Deseret Management Corp. is the for-profit arm of the LDS Church and includes media-related companies Deseret Book; the Deseret News; KSL-TV, KSL Newsradio and other Bonneville International radio stations; and its newest entity, Deseret Digital Media. DMC also includes Temple Square Hospitality and Beneficial Financial Group.

The DMC board appointed McMullin to replace outgoing CEO Willes in a change McMullin said he was not expecting.

"I think Mark Willes has done an outstanding job, and under the most difficult of circumstances, and as a result has positioned these wonderful resources in a way in which the future is bright," McMullin said.

McMullin said he learned of the new appointment only shortly before the release from his  assignment in the Presiding Bishopric. "Everyone wondered 'What are you going to do now that you're retired?' and I would respond, 'Well, in the next few hours, I will relax.'"

He said he quickly put his attention to the transition and the state of the companies he now manages. He and Willes worked closely to shape the corporation's recent business strategy.

"He knows the strategies well," Willes said of McMullin. "He's approved the strategies, and endorses the strategies, and it's just full speed ahead."

A particularly noticeable disruption to the way the DMC media companies had done business was the September 2010 announcement the Deseret News would reduce the size of its staff but become part of a larger combined media operation by creating a News Division with KSL. DMC also sold 17 Bonneville International radio stations in January 2011.

Decreasing advertising revenues have affected media outlets across the board with online media delivery and other economic factors cutting into traditional revenue streams.

The Deseret News has reported significant growth in both its print and online audiences since the 2010 cuts, reaching farther into Utah, across the country and internationally.

"There have been some rather wrenching changes that have gone forth over the last number of years," McMullin said. He sees the season of difficult economic cuts as being over, but does not see a status quo on the horizon.

"I think the wrenching part of it has passed," he said. "Not only have we been through it but positioned ourselves right. Our people have been through it and weathered it in a wonderful way."

McMullin now sees a core of his work as "fine tuning and looking on the horizons and seeing how we can deliver on the types of things we've discussed."

Leaders within the media companies responded to Thursday's changes.

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