CORRECTED-UPDATE 2-New York Times unexpectedly replaces top editor Abramson

Wed May 14, 2014 4:35pm EDT

(In ninth paragraph, corrects day of the week for Le Monde editor resignation)

NEW YORK May 14 (Reuters) - The New York Times Co on Wednesday replaced executive editor Jill Abramson in a surprising move after less than three years in the top job, effective immediately, naming managing editor Dean Baquet to succeed her.

Abramson, 60, was appointed The New York Times' first woman editor in 2011. Baquet was named managing editor at the same time, hand-picked by Abramson to be her deputy.

Baquet, a Pulitzer prize-winning reporter and former editor of the Los Angeles Times, becomes The New York Times' first African-American editor.

In a statement about the move, New York Times Publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr, thanked Abramson but did not elaborate why her tenure as editor was ending after less than three years.

New York Times staff members were called to a meeting Wednesday afternoon with Sulzberger, who said the change was made because of unspecified management issues, according a person present at the meeting.

In its own coverage of the move online, the newspaper described its newsroom as "stunned" by the sudden change.

Abramson did not immediately respond to a request seeking comment.

Abramson said in a statement, "I've loved my run at The Times. I got to work with the best journalists in the world doing so much stand-up journalism. Holding powerful institutions accountable is the mission of The Times and the hallmark of my time as executive editor, whether stories about China, government secrecy, or powerful figures and corporations."

Her predecessor, Bill Keller, served for eight years. He succeeded Howell Raines, who left in 2003 after less than two years in the post, following a plagiarism scandal involving reporter Jayson Blair.

Abramson's abrupt resignation underscores the turbulence sweeping newspapers' once stable business model in the United States and worldwide. Earlier on Wednesday, the first female editor in chief of prestigious French daily Le Monde quit after a power struggle with top staff.

The New York Times Co Chief Executive Officer Mark Thompson, who was appointed in 2012, said in a statement: "Jill has been a brilliant and supportive partner to me over the 18 months we've worked together. She is handing over to Dean a newsroom in superb form."

New York Times shares were down 4.9 percent in afternoon at $15.07, touching a session low after the announcement.

(Reporting by Jennifer Saba in New York; Editing by Leslie Adler and Cynthia Osterman)

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