SALT LAKE CITY (AP) _ Wendell J. Ashton will retire as publisher of the Deseret News on June 30 and will be succeeded by William James Mortimer, the Mormon Church announced Wednesday.

Ashton, 72, who has served for more than seven years as publisher of the city's afternoon newspaper, will become publisher emeritus, according to the announcement by the First Presidency, or three-member governing body, of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

The 64,000-circulation newspaper and Deseret News Publishing Co. are owned by the Mormon Church and operate under a board of directors chaired by Elder Thomas S. Monson of the church's Council of the Twelve Apostles.

Mortimer, 53, also will succeed Ashton as executive vice president of the Deseret News Publishing Co. Since 1979 Mortimer has been general manager of the Printing Services of the LDS Church.

Mortimer, who served on the publishing company's board of directors and executive committee during 1977-79, is a graduate in journalism from Utah State University and earned a master's degree in journalism at Columbia University.

He was a Deseret News carrier in Logan as a youth and later was a reporter in the newspaper's Logan bureau before becoming its assistant business editor.

Ashton has been president and chief executive officer of the Utah Symphony for 20 years and was chairman of the Salt Lake Branch board of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco from 1979 to 1984.

William B. Smart will continue as editor and general manager of the Deseret News.