William Krippaehne, the chief executive who transformed Fisher Communications into a modern broadcasting enterprise and presided over subsequent financial losses, resigned yesterday...

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William Krippaehne, the chief executive who transformed Fisher Communications into a modern broadcasting enterprise and presided over subsequent financial losses, resigned yesterday at the board’s urging, ending a 23-year career at the Seattle company.

The resignation, effective yesterday, “was requested by the board of directors,” Fisher said in a statement. The board contains several members of Fisher’s founding families, who own a substantial share of company stock.

Krippaehne, 53, is succeeded by Benjamin Tucker, who was named acting president and CEO of the company, which owns Seattle’s KOMO-TV and Portland’s KATU-TV among 10 TV and 27 radio stations in the Northwest.

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Tucker came to Fisher in 1999, when it bought a collection of 11 television stations for $217 million from Retlaw Enterprises, a unit of Walt Disney.

Krippaehne and Tucker didn’t return calls seeking comment.

In a statement, Krippaehne said Tucker’s background was the right one to run the company Fisher has become.

“With the corporate restructuring and refinancing work behind us, it is appropriate for the company to seek new leadership with more direct operating experience in the broadcasting business,” Krippaehne said. “It is time for me to move on.”

Krippaehne will also leave the Fisher board of directors.

For most of its 94-year history, Fisher was a flour-milling and real-estate business that created radio and television stations to promote flour products.

In the 1990s, under Krippaehne, it bought more stations and delved into the Internet, building a $130 million communications hub and corporate headquarters near Seattle Center. It was an engineering marvel that Fisher hoped would attract banks, communication companies and other firms needing secure data facilities.

In 2000, Fisher sold its mills, completing its transformation from commodity maker to broadcaster.

At the time, Fisher appeared to be making sensible moves to raise profitability and clarify its mission, though its debt quadrupled to $338 million.

But its timing coincided with the collapse of the dot-com bubble. After posting a record profit in 2000, Fisher lost nearly $75 million over the next two years as broadcasting revenue plunged and Internet income failed to materialize.

Fisher hired Goldman Sachs in 2002 to seek buyers but rejected two offers as inadequate and opted to remain locally owned. It shifted strategy in April 2003 to focus on broadcasting, selling its real-estate and Web-related assets to cut debt.

Fisher returned to profitability in 2003, but only because of gains from asset sales. It posted losses of more than $16 million in the first three quarters of 2004, though Krippaehne has said he expects Fisher to show a profit for the full year.

Fisher stock rose 7 cents to close at $48.05 yesterday. The announcement came after the markets closed.

Alwyn Scott 206-464-3329 or ascott@seattletimes.com