By Associated Press - Saturday, August 1, 2015

AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) - William S. Morris IV on Saturday became the new CEO of Morris Communications Co., the company said in a news release.

The appointment was announced Saturday by his father, William S. Morris III and is effective immediately.

The younger Morris, who goes by Will, succeeds his father, who goes by Billy. The elder Morris, 80, will continue as chairman of the board and will also continue as publisher of the Augusta Chronicle until April 12, when he will have completed 50 years in that role, the news release says.

“I’m very pleased to be able to pass the daily hands-on leadership of our company to Will,” Billy Morris said in the news release. “He’s been preparing most of his life for this opportunity.”

Will Morris, 55, will be directly responsible for oversight of the company’s corporate operations and its business divisions. The privately held company is headquartered in Augusta and has divisions in media, hospitality and agriculture and holdings throughout the United States and abroad.

Billy Morris joined his father, William S. Morris Jr., in the business nearly 60 years ago, in 1956, after he graduated from the University of Georgia. He became publisher of the Chronicle and president of the company 10 years later. He then led the company through acquisitions and startups over the following 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.”

Will Morris, who has a bachelor’s degree in economics from Emory University, 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 went to The St. Augustine Record in Florida as general manager before returning to Athens in 1992 as publisher.

He became president of Morris Communications Co. in 1996 and in 2013 was named CEO of Morris Venture Capital, a new division of Morris Communications.

“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,” he said. “I’m determined to continue our company’s tradition of innovation and creativity as we go forward.”

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