AUGUSTA, Ga. – William S. (Will) Morris IV has been named chief executive officer of Augusta-based Morris Communications Co., the parent company of the Homer News.
The appointment was announced Aug. 1 by his father, William S. (Billy) Morris III, 80, and is effective immediately.
Will Morris succeeds his father as CEO, while his father continues as chairman of the board. His father also will continue as publisher of the Augusta Chronicle until April 12, 2016, when he will complete 50 years in that role.
In his new role as CEO, Will Morris, 55, will have direct operational oversight of the company’s corporate operations and its business divisions.
Morris Communications is a diverse, privately held company headquartered in Augusta, with divisions in media, hospitality and agriculture and holdings throughout the United States and abroad.
Morris Publishing Group, the largest of the Morris companies, consists of 11 daily newspapers from Florida to Alaska including the Peninsula Clarion in Kenai and the Juneau Empire. It also includes dozens of nondaily publications including the Homer News, the Alaska Journal of Commerce in Anchorage, the Chugiak and Eagle River Star, and the Capital City Weekly in Juneau.
“I’m very pleased to be able to pass the daily hands-on leadership of our company to Will,” Billy Morris said. “He’s been preparing most of his life for this opportunity.
“I feel very good about continuing the tradition of Morris family business leadership into the third generation,” he said.
“I’m also very thankful to have worked so many years in a business that provides essential information to help individuals, businesses and communities function and succeed. It’s a privilege to be involved in this necessary and important work for a free people.”
The chairman’s media career began nearly 60 years ago in 1956, when he joined his father, William S. (Bill) Morris Jr., in the business after graduating from the University of Georgia. He became publisher of the Chronicle and president of the company 10 years later, on April 11, 1966.
Starting from that base in Augusta, he led the company through numerous acquisitions and startups spanning several decades.
“I’m very grateful to my dad and my grandfather for everything they did in building this company,” Will Morris said. “I’m honored to follow in their footsteps.
“I, along with my brother, Tyler, and my sister, Susie Morris Baker, remain committed to continuing our family values of providing great service to the people and the businesses in the communities we serve.
“These are challenging times for traditional media companies, but also exciting times, because the digital revolution is opening up so many new opportunities to serve local consumers and businesses. I’m determined to continue our company’s tradition of innovation and creativity as we go forward.”
After receiving a bachelor of arts degree in economics from Emory University, Will worked as an account executive for United Telephone Directories in San Diego, then spent five years with Gannett Outdoor Co. in San Diego and Phoenix.
He joined the family business in 1990 as assistant to the publisher of the Athens Banner-Herald/Daily News and general manager of Athens magazine. He then served as general manager of The St. Augustine (Fla.) Record before returning to Athens in 1992 as publisher.
He moved to corporate headquarters in Augusta in 1995 and became president of Morris Communications Co. in 1996.
In 2013, he was named CEO of Morris Venture Capital, a new division of Morris Communications.
He has served on the boards of several media industry organizations and a number of Augusta community organizations. He is a member of World President’s Organization and serves on the board of directors of Heritage Academy in Augusta.