Michael Casey is now CoinDesk's "chief content officer" (image via TEDx).

Big ambitions confirmed in CoinDesk CEO memo; Pete Rizzo ends up as collateral damage

‘Forget the crypto publications, we’re focused on the biggest fish in financial media.’

A memo from CoinDesk CEO Kevin Worth announcing the departure of editor in chief Pete Rizzo confirms that the editor’s departure comes amid consolidation of editorial power under Michael Casey.

The memo, obtained by Modern Consensus, was sent by the CEO at 9:22 a.m. ET on Wednesday and begins with a to-the-point lead that would make Hemingway proud: “Pete Rizzo has departed CoinDesk.” The memo continues by saying that “careful thought” went into the decision to relieve Rizzo of his duties and then boilerplate thanking the longtime editor for his “significant contributions” and the inevitable “wish him well.”

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Worth goes on to discuss “the mission to build a 21st-century media platform for the next generation of investors.” The word “investors” rather than “readers” is notable because part of the tension that led to Rizzo’s ouster is thought to be rooted in the owner’s desire to build CoinDesk into more of an investor advisory business while the editors and writers preferred to practice straight journalism.

That tension boiled over with the recent decision to move CoinDesk into parent DCG headquarters. DCG founder Barry Silbert sent a company-wide memo acknowledging the chatter among the company’s journalists: “I can’t control the conspiracy theories and perceptions on Twitter, or what sources will say, and neither can you,” the memo read. “Conspiracy theories will persist as long as DCG owns CoinDesk and that’s definitely not changing anytime soon.”

Casey spent nearly two decades as a columnist and reporter at the Wall Street Journal, and is the author of four books. He has contributed to CoinDesk and has chaired the site’s advisory board while also serving as an advisor to the Digital Currency Initiative at MIT’s Media Lab.

According to Worth’s memo, Casey will be wrapping up his current gigs and will begin serving as “Chief Content Officer”—the kind of newspeak title that will surely add to the anxiety of the traditionalists—on January 1.

The memo says that Rizzo’s No. 2, Marc Hochstein, will head the staff “in the interim period.” Hochstein, who spent more than 15 years helming American Banker before coming to CoinDesk two years ago, signaled his lament over the recent tumult by penning an ode to Rizzo on Twitter:

I want to tell you a story
About a man I know
A hard-driving crypto journalist
Named @pete_rizzo_

Hochstein is respected on both sides of the business/editorial wall. Even as several CoinDesk reporters have fretted about that wall slowly crumbling, the site leaves no doubt about its long-term ambitions.

Silbert’s memo stated, “At a time when news organizations are struggling, we’re investing tens of millions of dollars to build an even better media company. We want to compete in the next decade against the premier financial publications in the world; forget the crypto publications, we’re focused on the biggest fish in financial media.”

Here’s the full memo:

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Ken Kurson is the founder of Modern Consensus. Read more about Ken Kurson at kenkurson.com.