Jack Griffin has been removed as CEO of Tribune Publishing in a putsch masterminded by Michael Ferro, who just recently bought in as the largest shareholder of the screwed up Chicago company that owns the Los Angeles Times. The news is reported by Politico's Ken Doctor, who says that Ferro — named chairman of the board when he bought in this month — is likely to name a longtime associate with no real media industry experience as new CEO of the newspaper company. It is, Doctor notes, the second time in five years that Griffin has been let go as the CEO of a big media company. He was previously fired at Time after six months as the head executive. Griffin had been set on a strategy to buy the Orange County Register and continue a SoCal-dominance path set in motion by Austin Beutner, before Griffin fired him as LA Times publisher last year. Since then, Griffin has talked about enacting yet another Chicago-led Tribune digital strategy yada yada yada.
Griffin’s departure is not unexpected; as I noted as recently as Friday, “Expect bets to be laid soon on how long the Griffin/Ferro partnership will hold.” As suggested 10 days ago, here at Politico (“Michael Ferro immediately redefines Tribune Publishing’s chairman role”), the fault lines began forming behind the scenes as soon as Ferro had bought 16.6% of the company -- becoming its largest shareholder -- on Feb. 3....
What will be the fate of the suite of well-respected, seasoned top execs that Griffin had put in place since last summer? They include former New York Times executives Denise Warren, Mark Campbell, Rajiv Pant and Mohit Pandey and former Dow Jones Chief Revenue Officer Michael Rooney. Much is in motion in Tribune Publishing’s transition – and the future of this largely New York City-based group is now in question.
What does the change portend for the ongoing rivalry between Tribune’s Chicago operations, and its L.A. Times leadership? Ever since the Tribune Company bought the Times (and Times-Mirror) in 2000, business and editorial leaders have often found themselves often at loggerheads, most recently as Griffin fired his independent-minded Times publisher Austin Beutner in September.
Now, inquiring minds are asking why it was announced last Wednesday that long-time Tribune editor Gerry Kern had “retired” – effective immediately – and replaced by editorial page editor Bruce Dold. It’s not the departure of the 66-year-old Kern that was surprising; it was the timing. Meanwhile, company observers wonder about the staying power, and possible greater role, L.A. Times editor Davan Maharaj may play, under the new Ferro regime. Might a new twist on the old Chicago/L.A. Tale of Two Tribune Cities now be played out?
What a fucked-up company. Year in and year out. The LA Times has always deserved better than the bozos in Chicago. The names just change.
Morning update: Indeed, Tribune Publishing filed the change from Griffin to Ferro associate Justin Dearborn with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Doctor reports. Also here is the Tribune Publishing news release.