I always thought that Sam Zell was the worst owner the Chicago Tribune ever had, but Michael Ferro seems much worse.
Several months after taking control of the troubled Tribune Publishing Co. in 2016, Chicago investor Michael Ferro convened a session of corporate leaders from within his own news empire, including chief news executives from such storied papers as the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune and The Baltimore Sun.
The group of about 20 people trooped from Chicago’s iconic Tribune Tower on Michigan Avenue to an upscale restaurant nearby. In a private room, participants dined on seafood and steak while Ferro, then the company’s chairman, held forth on his plans.
His own net worth was newly in the nine figures. Associates and peers say Ferro held ambitions that were wide-ranging, even audacious, given the newspaper industry’s stiff headwinds.
At the dinner, as at other moments, Ferro railed against those who he felt were impeding him — including perceived rivals and competitors. Among them: the Southern California billionaire and civic leader Eli Broad, whom Ferro called part of a “Jewish cabal” that ran Los Angeles.
(click here to continue reading Tribune, Tronc And Beyond: A Slur, A Secret Payout, And A Looming Sale : NPR.)
Yeah, and this:
Early this year, however, Tribune Publishing made the first in a series of secret payments to total more than $2.5 million to avert a threatened lawsuit filed by a fired newspaper executive, according to three people with knowledge of the deal. That had the effect of keeping Ferro’s anti-Semitic slur out of the public spotlight.
The company agreed to secretly pay Maharaj more than $2.5 million, in installments, according to three people with knowledge of the pact. That financial obligation was not disclosed in corporate filings to shareholders and analysts. The payments started in the first quarter of this year, for which Tribune Publishing reported a net loss of $14.8 million. The loss was attributed to the company’s decision in December 2017 to pay Ferro $15 million in consulting fees even as he served as chairman and was the company’s controlling owner.
Even as the company cut back jobs in traditional newsrooms, Levinsohn and other executives acted to create a separate staff apart from the LA Times and its other newspaper properties. He planned to draw upon outside writers, some uncompensated or who would even pay for the privilege of being associated with the newspapers’ brands. Plans included a consolidated entertainment website called LA.com and the outsourcing of Washington coverage to the digital news service Axios. Neither of those initiatives came to fruition. (LA.com still says “coming soon.”) But the digital strategy, gravitas with scale, sparked distrust among journalists.
The kicker is Michael Ferro still owns 25% of the Tribune, or what’s left of it as Ferro’s hand picked lackies furiously fire writers and jack up executive compensation to pull whatever profits they can off while the Tribune still exists.