CarmelFest 2005 had just wrapped up about nine hours prior, when Carmel resident Steve Greenberg made a call to Brian Kelly, also of Carmel. At the time, each was working on a plan to launch a weekly newspaper in Carmel, but neither of them knew the other was on the same track.
It was at CarmelFest, where Greenberg ran across Ron Carter, the former longtime city councilor. Carter asked how Greenberg’s plan for the paper was coming along, and Greenberg, a career journalist and marketing specialist, said it was developing fairly well, although distribution was kind of a sticking point. Carter asked, “Do you know Brian Kelly? He’s working on the same plan as you are. You ought to give him a call.”
So, at 8:45 a.m. the next day, Greenberg called Kelly, whose career exclusively has been in publishing, and after a short conversation it became readily apparent to both that combining strengths and “going for it” was the wiser move.
Now, more than 17 years later, after launching their dream, Kelly has opted for retirement at the ripe young age of 64. His last day at Current will be Dec. 31. Soon, he and his wife, Maggie, a former media and marketing executive who also is concurrently retiring as bookkeeper for Current, will have no need to set an alarm clock.
Kelly will be succeeded as a co-owner, president and publisher by Carmel resident Ben Weir, who joined Current in September 2020.
“Brian shared heavily in the development of Current, and I believe we’re in a good position for future growth. His retirement is well earned,’’ Weir said.
Greenberg will remain as co-owner and executive vice president with no plans to retire as of now.
“My role still is to serve my customers and help the staff however I can while also helping to further Ben’s development at Current, not that he needs much assistance, believe me,” Greenberg said. “He is the future here, which is exactly what Brian and I wanted.”
What became evident led Kelly to his decision.
“Ben joining us made my decision not only easier, but he made it possible. Maggie and I have been talking about retirement for a handful of years, but the timing just didn’t seem right. Now, it is,” Kelly said. “Ben has brought a lot of energy and new ideas that have resulted in a lot of growth the past two years, so the timing is perfect.
“We’ve been working on the transition, really, since March of this year. There are a lot of moving parts, but the process has gone quite well. A lot of that is the result of an outstanding staff. It may sound cliché, but it is absolutely true: Current would not be where and what it is without the brilliance of the people I’ve been so fortunate to work with.”
Meanwhile, back to the beginning, Kelly and Greenberg traipsed through the customary startup minefield, always managing to put, collectively, one foot in front of the other. After 16 months of business formation; a capital raise; legal, accounting and logistics work; and hiring a staff, the pair was off to the races, signing landmark advertisers, whose initial commitment to Current never will be forgotten, they said.
“It was pedal to the metal for both of us back then,” Greenberg said. “As late-stage entrepreneurs, it was either success or failure, and the latter never was an option. I recall a former Gannett publisher telling me, ‘Good luck. You’ll be chewed up and spit out within six weeks.’ I told Brian what was said to me, and, after our respective blood pressures came back to normal, it was ‘go like hell’ from then on. It worked out well, I’d say.”
Joining forces proved to be a successful pairing of strengths.
“The partnership with Brian worked well, just as it will with Ben, because we both brought different attributes to the company. Complementary, I’d say, and perfect for a business with seemingly a billion moving parts,” Greenberg said. “Brian was strong on fiduciary experience and distribution/operations, while I had heavy newsroom experience and years of sales behind me. Brian could sell, too, and often we paired for ‘four-legged’ sales calls. Suffice it to say, we slept in our spare time. I’m extremely proud of what we built. And if anyone could turn a penny into a spool of copper, it’s Brian. If he and Maggie end up on a beach in St. Somewhere, I’ll be happy for them, but, no lie, I’ll be overly envious … and he knows it.”
Kelly said the “cast of characters” made Current the best stop of his accomplished career. Both founders recognize and appreciate that the accomplishments they’ve enjoyed through the years never would have been possible without the team they assembled way back when and have grown since then. It’s a colorful troupe at Current — and it always has been — so much so that Kelly often would say, “That belongs in the movie,” or “That belongs in the book,” and always preceded by, “Man, I love this place.”
Three of Kelly’s longtime Current colleagues are Mark Ambrogi, Night and Day editor; Dennis O’Malia, senior advertising sales executive; and Zach Ross, art director. Ambrogi actually was a childhood friend of Kelly’s in Cincinnati. Ambrogi is a veteran of central Indiana media. O’Malia was hired before Current even had a business address, and Ross came along in Year 2.
“I can’t say enough about Ambro, Dennis and Zach. You could say we’ve pretty much been through it all,” Kelly said. “I’m amazed at the detail and amount of work they each process week in and week out, year after year, and the same goes for the rest of our team. And speaking of outstanding talent, I can’t say enough about Maggie’s contributions to our company. She’s the best bookkeeper in town!”
Terry Anker, a Current Publishing board member, founding investor and weekly essayist who owns Anker Consulting Group, said, “As a longtime Hamilton County resident, Brian Kelly knew firsthand of the lack of a local journalistic perspective on events affecting our communities. When we were talking about the idea of a new concept in local news that would include print editions, it would be an understatement to say that not everyone supported the concept. Now, almost two successful decades later, Brian and Current have unequivocally proven to me and everyone else that newspapers work, especially the ones that he helped to found. Kudos to him on a well-deserved break from the daily action — but let’s hope he doesn’t go too far. The tireless work he and his bride, Maggie, have done for the not-for-profit community and as an advisor and friend to countless of small business owners and young people just starting their careers is more important now than ever.”
Fellow Current board member and founding investor Ersal Ozdemir owns Keystone Corp. He offered Kelly “heartfelt congratulations” on his pending retirement:
“Seventeen years ago, Brian co-founded Current Publishing and set in motion several important local publications that helped fill a void in coverage in Hamilton and Boone counties,” Ozdemir said. “Over the years, Current’s publications have become valuable resources to residents and local businesses. This would not have been possible without Brian’s dedication and vision, and I am proud of what he has achieved and has done for so many communities. I am glad to call Brian a friend and wish him the best.”
Long before Current was even an idea, Kelly sold advertising for the Indiana Daily Student while attending Indiana University. Upon graduation from IU’s Kelley School of Business with a Bachelor of Science degree, he joined Gordon Publications, a national trade magazine company. After stints at Gordon’s Tustin, Calif., and Chicago offices, and later, the home office at Randolph, N.J., he was promoted to publisher of Software Retailing magazine at the ripe young age of 28. Later, he would help launch NUVO Newsweekly, and he was the founder of Kelly Publications, Inc., publisher of The Greenwood Gazette, The Greater Greenwood Business Journal and Business Update. He later sold KPI to Central Newspapers, Inc. (now Gannett). He also previously served as publisher of Thomson Newspapers’ niche division in Indiana, launching Indy Curiocity, which was distributed in more than 1,700 Indianapolis-area classrooms, and Image Newspapers, a group of weekly newspapers in Hamilton County.
Kelly also is the recently retired chief executive officer of Grow Local Media, publisher of The Southside Times, Hendricks County Business Leader, Hendricks County ICON and Center Grove ICON.
“I’ve been very lucky in life, to say the least,” Kelly said. “I married the woman of my dreams and had a great career in an industry I absolutely love, and always will. The partners I’ve had; the outstanding people with whom I work; the wonderful communities we’re fortunate to serve; and our wonderful customers and readers, many of whom have become great friends through the years … it’s all to be valued. I treasure these relationships, and that’s why Maggie and I will continue to call Carmel home. We’ll be doing some traveling and I’ll be indulging in my favorite pastime, reading. I’m looking forward to the challenge in my next stage in life, but I know I’m going to miss a lot of the day-to-day action in the office, and the people, of course.”