The future of the Sun-Times appeared more cloudy than ever Monday with the resignation of Timothy Knight as chief executive officer of parent company Wrapports LLC.
Knight, 50, is leaving to become president of the Cleveland-based Northeast Ohio Media Group, which operates cleveland.com and the Sun News, and is responsible for all advertising and marketing for the Cleveland Plain Dealer.
“I am honored to join NEOMG and work with their talented team of journalists and sales and marketing professionals,” Knight was quoted as telling the Plain Dealer. “The opportunities for growth here, especially in the digital arena, are tremendous.”
Along with chairman Michael Ferro, Knight launched Wrapports in December 2011 after an investment group acquired the assets of Sun-Times Media Group for about $20 million. A former publisher, president and CEO of Newsday, Knight had ties to Chicago, where he started as a corporate lawyer for Skadden Arps. He later joined the legal department of Tribune Co., where he rose through the executive ranks and helped develop the cars.com and apartments.com websites for the company.
Knight never achieved his stated goal of making Wrapports profitable by introducing “cutting-edge technologies, new content portals and other tools that will expand and drive richer and more satisfying content to readers, while providing more targeted and measurable promotion options for our advertising partners.” Mostly, it seemed, the company failed with a series of half-hearted initiatives while cutting staff and selling off assets.
As it jettisoned its portfolio of suburban daily and weekly publications and websites — nearly 40 in all — Wrapports invested in a hyperlocal news-aggregation startup called Aggrego, and created the Sun-Times Network, an array of clumsy and useless digital sites targeting cities across the country. In 2012 the company acquired the Chicago Reader, the alternative weekly, which remains its only other print product along with the daily Sun-Times.
Knight was instrumental in some of the most controversial and unpopular moves at the Sun-Times, including the firing of the newspaper’s entire photography staff and the elimination of all endorsements of political candidates by the editorial board. Under pressure, both moves later were scaled back.