Steve Brandt, president and publisher of The Greenville News Media Group, announced on Friday that he plans to retire on Oct. 31 after 36 years with the company.
He broke the news to employees with a light-hearted quiz about the name of a 1970 George Harrison album: “All Things Must Pass.”
“This is a bittersweet moment for me,” Brandt said. “I love this newspaper and my colleagues here, but I am looking forward to pursuing other interests. It is time to hand the reins to a new leader.”
In addition to leading the newspaper through its transition from ownership by Multimedia Co. to becoming part of Gannett, and from the heyday of print into the digital age, Brandt has served in a variety of community leadership rolls, including the development of the Peace Center for the Performing Arts, across the street from the newspaper office at the corner of Main and Broad.
Dave Neill, Carolinas regional president for Gannett and publisher of The Asheville Citizen-Times, will take on the additional responsibility of publisher of The Greenville News Media Group on Sept. 1. Brandt will continue as president through Oct. 31.
“Steve’s leadership of the newspaper and dedicated service to the community over last 36 years are commendable. One can assume his numerous contributions have helped make Greenville a better place to live and work,” Neill said.
“Steve has been a trusted advisor and mentor to me over the last 10 months, and I look forward to his continued guidance and support in the future.”
Brandt, 62, began his career with The Greenville News-Piedmont Co. in 1978 and held a number of positions before becoming president and publisher in 1993. Following Gannett’s acquisition of Multimedia in 1995, Brandt served as president and publisher of The Rochester (N.Y.) Democrat and Chronicle.
He returned to Greenville as publisher in 1999.
Brandt was a five-time winner of Gannett’s President’s Ring for Excellence and served as president of the Southern Newspaper Publishers Association and the South Carolina Press Association.
Locally, Brandt has been an active volunteer with a number of community organizations.
Among other volunteer roles, he has served as board chair for the Peace Center for the Performing Arts; board chair for the Greater Greenville Chamber of Commerce; board chair for Artisphere; president of the Greenville County Museum of Art Association board; campaign chair for the United Way of Greenville County; and board chair for Friends of the Zoo.
“He’s been wonderful for the Peace Center,” said Betty Stall, a member of the Peace family. “He speaks so well and gave such strong leadership.”
Tim Reed, chairman of the Greenville Chamber of Commerce board of directors, called Brandt “well-tempered” and “a great consensus builder.”
“Obviously, I’m saddened for the newspaper but I’m happy for him, and I’m happy that he’s basically steered the ship for all these years,” Reed said.
“Greenville has certainly been blessed by his presence.”
Mayor Knox White said Brandt has served “with real distinction” in his many community roles.
“He’s always been personally engaged in the community, and I think he’s always tried as publisher to make sure the newspaper puts the community first,” White said. “And I think the thing about Steve that’s always been good is that he’s never sat in an ivory tower as publisher.
“I’ve been on many boards with him. He was always a hands-on leader.”
Michael Riordan, president and chief executive officer of Greenville Health System, said, “I feel selfishly sad. I have a deep respect and affection for him as a professional and a man.”
Former publisher Bern Mebane said Brandt “has been the embodiment of The Greenville News for decades of ownership by both Gannett and Multimedia.”
“His leadership and plain hard work made The News a leader in news, in audience growth and in profitability at a time when other businesses in a mature industry were going the other direction. I am proud of what Steve has accomplished in his long career and glad to be his friend.”
Longtime executive editor John Pittman, who retired last year, said, “No one has done more to promote this community, in his role as publisher and his active involvement in countless organizations over the years.
“He has touched the lives of virtually everyone here in one way or another. There’s no better model for those who follow in his footsteps.”
Chris Weston, a former managing editor of The News, said, “Steve Brandt’s long and distinguished career has demonstrated the power of principled leadership.
“Steve has been faithful to the best interests of the readers of The Greenville News through his leadership and support of public service journalism to improve lives in this community and throughout the state. His civic dedication to Greenville cannot be overstated.”
Weston, who worked with Brandt for more than 30 years, said, “It was my honor to have served with him.”