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The [Tuesday] Papers

"Jack Griffin has been ousted as chief executive of Times owner Tribune Publishing Co. and replaced by a longtime associate of the company's new top shareholder," the Los Angeles Times reports.

"Griffin's unexpected departure appears to have been engineered by Chicago entrepreneur and investor Michael Ferro, who less than three weeks ago became the largest shareholder and chairman of Tribune Publishing."

There's no "appears" about it; this is Ferro's move.

"Taking Griffin's place is Justin Dearborn, former chief executive of Merge Healthcare, a Ferro-backed, Chicago-based information technology firm acquired by IBM in October for $1 billion. Dearborn has worked for Ferro since at least 1997."

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This is a turn of events both delicious (Beachwood, Feb.5: "Hey, Tribune people: Remember, Jack Griffin did this to you") and depressing. Michael Ferro is non-executive chairmaning all over the place. He's the king of Chicago media. And that's a very, very, very, very, very bad thing. Very.

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"Griffin's ouster was first reported late Monday by media industry analyst Ken Doctor, who said Griffin did not see the firing coming."

(Link mine.)

"Jack Griffin played an extremely bad hand at corporate poker," Doctor said. "Mike Ferro is described as a guy with big ideas who is used to being the leader in whatever he does. Why would Griffin have expected this go to any different?"

Doctor said Ferro over the past few weeks held meetings with top Tribune Publishing executives and convinced the company's board to jettison its chief executive.

"They gave him quick approval to fire Griffin," Doctor said.

Griffin never saw Ferro coming. And then the boardroom betrayed him.

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"In a conference call with Tribune Publishing employees, held the day the investment was announced, Ferro, who is also part owner of the Chicago Sun-Times, promised to take an active role with the company, saying he was putting his reputation on the line."

Spit take.

And yet, from the LA Times reporter covering corporate media:

Hey Meg, I have a bridge to the digital future I'd like to sell you.

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"He bought shares in a private placement negotiated with Griffin and Tribune Publishing management, not on the open market. What's more, as part of that deal, documents filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission show Ferro agreed that he would vote in line with recommendations made by board committees as to board nominations and corporate governance matters."

Like hell he would. Ferro didn't buy the majority stake of Tribune to rubber stamp its board.

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"It looked like Griffin had found a way to further his strategy - that he had found a business partner," Doctor said. "It was not anticipated that there would be a transition and that Griffin would step down."

Griffin and Ferro had done business before, with Tribune buying several suburban Chicago newspapers from Ferro's Sun-Times in October 2014. But Doctor said it was clear Griffin did not know who he was dealing with.

"Jack Griffin played an extremely bad hand at corporate poker," Doctor said. "Mike Ferro is described as a guy with big ideas who is used to being the leader in whatever he does. Why would Griffin have expected this go to any different?"

"Doctor said Ferro over the past few weeks held meetings with top Tribune Publishing executives and convinced the company's board to jettison its chief executive.

"'They gave him quick approval to fire Griffin,' Doctor said."

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Now to this nugget in Doctor's article:

"Commanding the Tribune completes a long quest for Ferro, who has built his standing in Chicago as a tech investor year by year. He had brought numerous high-profile investors into the ownership group that bought the Chicago Sun-Times four years ago, through Wrapports LLC.

"Yet, from the beginning, it was the bigger, more powerful Chicago Tribune Ferro and some of his associates sought."

Doctor writes that Ferro used the Sun-Times as a stepping stone to acquiring the Tribune. Indeed, Ferro's footprints are all over his former paper - of which he still is the majority owner - and his handprints are already all over his new paper.

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From Kevin Roderick, of LA Observed: "What a fucked-up company. Year in and year out. The LA Times has always deserved better than the bozos in Chicago."

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Ferro, pundit:

Of course, Mayer has been a disaster and is on her way out at Yahoo. But Ferro is obsessed with AI.

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Let's go to Twitter for reactions of former Sun-Times employees, which I believe reflects the feelings of current employees at both papers Ferro owns:

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Kobe Bryant's Fatuous Farewell Tour
Whatever happened to dignity, our very own Roger Wallenstein wonders.

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BeachBook

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TweetWood
A sampling.

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The Beachwood Tip Line: Ferrocious.



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Posted on February 22, 2016


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