Tronc watcher Ken Doctor says the recent media silence surrounding the oddball corporate parent of the Los Angeles Times belies some potentially big offstage happenings.
In Delaware courts, two shareholder lawsuits have been combined, alleging the company screwed its own investors by not taking seriously Gannett's offer to buy Tronc. But it's the threat of a third lawsuit, by LA's Oaktree Capital Management, that poses a bigger threat to the company being run by Chicago media mogul Michael Ferro. The end game could be an Oaktree suit that succeeds in undoing the original sale that made Ferro the top shareholder in what was then known as Tribune Publishing.
Of course, such an eventuality could force an unraveling of all the many changes Ferro has brought in his tumultuous six months of completely changing out top leadership, eliminating independent publishers, proclaiming artificial intelligence as the news business’ savior and renaming legendary Tribune with a Popsicle- colored tronc logo. Finally, tronc iced its new cake with the release of promotional videos that have met near-universal ridicule.
Ferro's Tronc newspapers have also begun implementing his plan to create more videos to sell more ads on, to widespread disbelief in the industry that it will help more than hurt those papers. (Also, as difficult to use as the LA Times website is already, can you imagine using it to consume news via dumbed-down video nuggets?)
But Doctor saves his bombshell for the end of his Politico story. He says sources indicate that Ferro may be contemplating his own exit strategy from the mess he created.
"It could be his own assessment of an end game, or it could be the whispers or louder that he is hearing from his highly paid bankers. Or he could be tired of the several reporters nosily poking into his personal life and work history, working current and former associates, or of Internet trollers questioning the credentials of some his own top execs.
"Ferro could point to so many reasons to simply accept Gannett’s offer – which would more than double the $44M price his group paid for the Tribune stake – and walk away.
Yes, even the entrepreneur who is used to having it his own way is doing some contingency planning, as we await the next explosion of the powder keg that tronc has become."
Doctor and Politico use the company's preferred form of address, with the "t" in Tronc lower-case.
Meanwhile: Here's a spoof of the Tronc video to employees about the video-is-the-future gambit.