Meet NPR's New Chief Executive: Jarl Mohn

May 9, 2014
Originally published on May 9, 2014 7:45 pm

NPR announced the selection of a new CEO. His name is Jarl Mohn, a longtime radio disc jockey and former media executive, who's been a venture capitalist and corporate board member in recent years. The appointment of Mohn follows last year's departure of Gary Knell, who left NPR to run the National Geographic Society.

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Here at NPR, we received word today of our new president and CEO. The board announced that Jarl Mohn will step into that role in July. Mr. Mohn has made a fortune in television and as a digital entrepreneur. And as NPR's David Folkenflik reports, he also has a background in radio.

DAVID FOLKENFLIK, BYLINE: NPR has been beset by instability at the top, budget deficits and political fights. Who would want this job? Count Jarl Mohn in.

JARL MOHN: It's a national treasure. And I just want to make sure that the path that the organization is on in the news-gathering and reporting that has been done, everybody in that area is going to have all the tools that they need to continue to do that and grow it, make it better.

FOLKENFLIK: Mohn - that's M-O-H-N - is a 62-year-old investor who was a founder of the E! Entertainment Network, an early top executive at MTV and VH1. He spoke to me during an interview this afternoon.

MOHN: The first thing I would think, if I were a reporter or anybody inside the organization - or outside - is oh, my God, this guy's coming in and he's worked at MTV, he's worked at VH1, he's worked at E! This is the direction we're going? And I can tell you with 100 percent certainty, absolutely not.

FOLKENFLIK: Mohn has also been a corporate board member of such media ventures as XM Satellite Radio and Comscore, which helps companies measure their digital traffic. In addition, Mohn has given millions of dollars to Southern California Public Radio, where he's board chairman. A database search also shows he's given more than $200,000 to political causes, mostly Democrat, since 1990. But he pledged to stop for his new job.

The new CEO says he ultimately intends to spend at least half his time raising money from corporate underwriters, individual donors and foundations for NPR; and to share that bounty with NPR member stations, which often have prickly relationships with the network. He has no background in journalism or public broadcasting on the national scale, but Mohn does have a deep affinity for radio.


MOHN: (As Lee Masters) Only this guy looked like Elton John. He was short, chubby, wore glasses and a hat, and he called himself Reggie Dwight, Elton John's real name...

FOLKENFLIK: For years, Mohn was a radio and TV DJ. He went by the name Lee Masters.

MOHN: I made it up in my little pea brain when I was 15 years old. I love radio; I've always loved radio. I think it's the most personal medium there is.

FOLKENFLIK: Now, that disc jockey who spun classic rock on vinyl before it was classic rock, will become CEO of the nation's leading radio network and its chief champion, too.

David Folkenflik, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.