by Luke Jones
Posted 2/19/2014 09:33 am
Updated 10 months ago
Cranford Johnson Robinson Woods of Little Rock has named Darin Gray as the firm's president.
According to a news release, Gray will assume his duties immediately and will continue to live in northwest Arkansas, where CJRW has an office in Johnson (Washington County).
Gray is the founder of Gray Matters LLC of Fayetteville, a publishing company that produces the Northwest Arkansas Business Journal. He is a past chairman of the Arkansas State Parks, Recreation and Travel Commission and remains on the board. His term expires in 2019. (CJRW says Gray has left the board.)
"The cliché that 'timing is everything' certainly applies in this case," Gray said in a news release. "At the time my family and I were talking through 'what's next?' CJRW reached out to me. A casual conversation became a serious discussion and here we are today."
CJRW said Wayne Woods will continue as chairman and CEO, a role he's filled since 2010. Woods began his career in 1971 with The Woods Brothers Agency, which later merged with Cranford Johnson Robinson Associates to form CJRW.
As president, Gray will be a member of CJRW's Executive Committee and its Board of Directors. Also on the Executive Committee will be Woods, chairmen emeriti Wayne Cranford and Shelby Woods, and Steve Allen, senior vice president and CFO.
Woods said that he and Shelby Woods, his brother, will continue to be involved in day-to-day operations. But they expect Gray to take on "an expanding leadership role."
In a news release, Woods said the search for a president has been happening for "a number of months." He said the firm was seekign someone with "executive experience in managing a multi-faceted business, proven leadership qualities, a working knowledge of northwest Arkansas and a deep understanding of the Arkansas business community and the state in general."
"But we came to realize that we were not just describing the qualities we wanted in a president, but we were describing Darin Gray to a 'T.'" Woods said. "I am hard-pressed to think of anyone who has those qualifications and is more widely respected and genuinely admired around the state than Darin."
CJRW is the state's largest advertising agency. It has long held the advertising account for Arkansas tourism. Other clients include the state Department of Health, Tyson Foods Inc. of Springdale, Centennial Bank and Oaklawn Racing & Gaming in Hot Springs.
The Northwest Arkansas Business Journal was launched in April 1997 as a division of Arkansas Business Publishing Group of Little Rock, which also publishes the Arkansas Business newspaper and website. Gray joined ABPG the same year as associate publisher of the Business Journal. He was promoted to publisher in 1999 and president of the northwest Arkansas division in 2003.
He became majority owner of the journal and its related products in 2004, the same year he founded Gray Matters. In September, Gray purchased the remaining interest from ABPG.
Gray Matters also publishes the Northwest Arkansas Guest Guide, the Northwest Arkansas Newcomers Guide and the Northwest Arkansas Book of Lists, among others.
On Feb. 3, Gray announced that he was stepping down as CEO of Gray Matters and placing the company in a family trust to be administered by his wife, Tami.
The company did not name a new CEO but noted that Rob Gutterridge, who joined the company four years ago, had been promoted to publisher in August. Paul Gatling, who began as assistant editor three years ago, is editor and associate publisher. Tami Gray said she would not be running Gray Matters.
"The existing management team will continue to do that just as they have been," Gray said. "I will be running the family trust, which is more of an advisory role."