Stop the presses: Michael Ferro retires from tronc

Michael Ferro (Photo: Christopher Michel)

In an unexpected move, Michael Ferro announced his retirement Monday as chairman of tronc, parent company of the Chicago Tribune and newspapers in nine other cities.

CEO Justin Dearborn was named to succeed Ferro as chairman of the Chicago-based media company.

Justin Dearborn

“I want to thank everyone who worked so hard over the last two years creating great journalism, strengthening the company’s financial position and delivering significant value for shareholders,” Ferro said in a statement. “I am confident that under the leadership of Justin and the rest of the board and management team tronc will continue to deliver value for investors while executing the plan for digital transformation.”

The surprise announcement came about one month after tronc agreed to sell the Los Angeles Times and the San Diego Union-Tribune to investor Patrick Soon-Shiong for $500 million.

Ferro, 51, a Chicago tech entrepreneur, took control of the former Tribune Publishing (which he later renamed tronc) in 2016 after five years as chairman of Wrapports, former parent company of the Sun-Times.

Here is the text of the tronc news release:

Justin Dearborn Named Chairman of tronc, Inc. Board

Michael Ferro retires after negotiating $500 million L.A. Times sale to local owners

CHICAGO, March 19, 2018 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Justin Dearborn, chief executive officer of tronc, Inc., has been named chairman of the board of tronc. Michael Ferro is retiring from the board of directors as the company prepares to close on the $500 million sale of the Los Angeles Times to local ownership.

In recent weeks, Ferro has discussed with his fellow board members and the management team his desire to retire as chairman in connection with the closing of the Times transaction.

“Michael retires having created considerable shareholder value for the company in just two years as chairman of the board,” said Dearborn, who will continue to serve as chief executive officer. “Prior to Michael being elected Chairman in 2016, the company had a market capitalization of approximately $200 million, $41 million of cash on hand and nearly $500 million of debt and pension liability as compared to a market capitalization today that represents a more than 300% improvement, a greater than 400% improvement in cash at the end of 2017 and significantly lower debt.  Additionally, the California News Group transaction he engineered for $500 million in cash plus the assumption of $90 million in pension obligations leaves the company in its strongest financial position in more than a decade. We look forward to Michael’s continued support as an investor and wish him the best in his retirement.”

“I want to thank everyone who worked so hard over the last two years creating great journalism, strengthening the company’s financial position and delivering significant value for shareholders,” said Michael Ferro. “I am confident that under the leadership of Justin and the rest of the board and management team tronc will continue to deliver value for investors while executing the plan for digital transformation.”

Last month, tronc announced that it has entered into a definitive agreement to sell the Los Angeles Times, The San Diego Union-Tribune and various titles in the California News Group to Nant Capital, LLC, a private investment vehicle of California-based entrepreneur Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong.  As previously announced, tronc continues to expect the transaction to close in the late first quarter or early second quarter of 2018.

Dearborn was appointed CEO of tronc in February 2016 after leading Merge Healthcare as its CEO through a period of sustainable growth until its acquisition by IBM in October of 2015 for $1 billion.