Kushner out as Register publisher, remains CEO

Thumbnail image for laregister-prototype.jpgIt's unclear yet whether Aaron Kushner had himself replaced as publisher of the Orange County Register or was toppled by unhappy investors, but the new publisher has even less newspaper experience than Kushner had. It's Richard Mirman, a former casino marketing excective at Harrah's in Las Vegas. Mirman invested in Freedom Communications, the Register's parent, earlier this year. The paper's story all but ties the change to last week's debacle in which Register subscribers did not get their papers delivered.

Richard Mirman, a former executive at Harrah’s Entertainment known in Las Vegas for his talents in casino marketing, has been named interim publisher and chief executive of the Orange County Register.

Mirman took over Monday from Aaron Kushner, who remains the principal owner and chief executive of the Register’s parent company, Freedom Communications.

“My goal is to get the business on a trajectory of growth,” said Mirman, 48, in an interview.

Newsroom, advertising, marketing and circulation executives of the Register and the Freedom-owned Press-Enterprise in Riverside will report to Mirman, a Freedom investor who served in several executive marketing roles at Harrah’s from 1998 to 2007. Kushner will oversee the opinions department for both newspapers.

The appointment of a new publisher comes roughly one week after Register subscribers inundated the company's phone lines, live chats and social media accounts with complaints about missed newspaper deliveries.

The interruption in service resulted from a business dispute between the Register and its previous newspaper-delivery vendor, the Los Angeles Times.

In a statement, the Times said the Orange County paper owes it more than $3.5 million in unpaid bills tied to an agreement to deliver the Register and the now-folded Los Angeles Register. Register officials said the delivery interruption was in part due to the Times’ unwillingness to assist with the transition to a new distribution provider.

Kushner puts a happy face on the development, as he always does. “We have accomplished a great deal in our first two years owning the Orange County Register, and I am confident Rich will help lead the Register to the next level of growth and profitability,” Kushner said in a statement. The Register's story is unusually blunt about recent history. "Since 2012, the company has experienced dramatic growth and contractions. The company went from hiring dozens of reporters and editors, adding sections and launching publications – as well as purchasing the Press-Enterprise in Riverside – to most recently executing three rounds of buyouts or layoffs and ending the 5-month-old Los Angeles Register."

Mirman is quoted saying of the Register before him, “There were many things that worked and … things that hadn't worked. He said he plans first to grow subscriber numbers and get the company’s finances in order — all priorities that Kushner claimed as well. Kushner will remain in charge of the editorial pages at the Register and the Riverside Press-Enterprise, the story says.

At the rival OC Weekly, Register watcher (and Kushner critic) Gustavo Arellano called the move a "stunning admission of failure."

In a not-stunning admission of cluelessness, Kushner has stepped aside in favor of one of his investors, whose only experience as a newspaper guy is in working at a casino--which is to say, Richard Mirman has no newspaper experience whatsoever.

Okay, let out your mixed gambling metaphors here--Kushner doesn't know when to hold or fold them, rolled snake eyes; he's a flea, a chalk eater, a dumb double-downer--and let's get on with the post....

At this point, one can only guess that Mirman came into Kushner's galaxy by way of his editor, Rob Curley, whose previous job was at the Las Vegas Sun.

Besides the disturbing gaffe over missed deliveries, the Register has been failing to pay some bills and less than a month ago shut down Kushner's big initiative in Los Angeles, the LA Register, and laid off dozens of staffers. As the LA Times had previously, the Register also moved up its print deadlines so as to cause some night sports scores to miss the paper.

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