Torstar Corp. says John Cruickshank will be stepping down as publisher of the Toronto Star and president of the Star Media Group on May 4, when the company has its annual shareholders meeting.

His responsibilities within Torstar will be assumed on an interim basis by David Holland, who is president and chief executive of Torstar, but Cruickshank will remain co-chair of the board of Canadian Press Enterprises as a Torstar director.

Torstar holds an investment in The Canadian Press as part of a joint agreement with a subsidiary of the Globe and Mail and the parent company of Montreal's La Presse.

'He made the tough and innovative decisions necessary to move the Toronto Star forward in these challenging times." - David Holland, Torstar president and chief executive

The company didn't announce a reason for Cruickshank's departure after more than seven years as publisher of the group's flagship newspaper, which has Canada's largest daily circulation.

Cruickshank, 62, said in Torstar's statement that it has been "the most stimulating, demanding and enjoyable period of my professional life."

In a statement to Torstar staff, he said: "I'm ready to leave scaling new journalistic heights to someone with less arthritic limbs and more recently acquired tools and skills."

The one-time reporter has held a variety of senior management positions at various media groups, including the CBC, the Globe and Mail newspaper and the Chicago Sun-Times while it was part of Conrad Black's Hollinger group.

He left the public broadcaster to become Toronto Star publisher in January 2009.

'Tough' decisions made

Since Cruickshank's arrival, the Torstar group and the media industry as a whole have undergone major changes due to changing consumer and advertiser habits in an era of digital media.

"John's leadership and strategic thinking in all aspects of the business have had a significant positive impact on Torstar," Holland said in the statement. "Again and again, he made the tough and innovative decisions necessary to move the Toronto Star forward in these challenging times."

Torstar announced two weeks ago that it had written down the value of its continuing operations by $213.3 million in the fourth quarter, including $70.5 million at the Star Media group that includes the Star and $130.6 million at the Metroland Media group that includes smaller dailies and community newspapers.

Chief financial officer Lorenzo DeMarchi told an analyst conference call on March 2 that 2016 would continue to be challenging due to a shift in spending by advertisers.

Cruickshank told the same conference call that advertisers had responded positively to Star Touch, a tablet-only product launched last fall, but Holland said growth in the app's audience was slower than originally anticipated.

Holland said on the same call that the company expects Star Touch to break even by 2017 and that it's part of Torstar's push towards a more digital future.