With job cuts looming, Tribune Publishing offers buyouts to staff

Chicago Tribune

As the parent company of the Chicago Tribune continues to seek a buyer, a new round of job cuts is the on the way.

In an email to managers and editors Friday, Tribune Publishing announced a companywide voluntary buyout plan as a possible precursor to “further workforce reductions.”

While the initial offer does not include employees represented by unions (including the recently formed Chicago Tribune Guild), the company said it would be making an “equivalent offer” to eligible union employees by November 16.

“Based on the ongoing trends in our industry, we need to make some difficult decisions to align our costs with revenue trends,” Maya A. Bordeaux, senior vice president of human resources at Tribune Publishing, wrote in the email. “Reducing our costs through employee reductions is always our last resort. . . . We hope to meet our financial targets through this buyout plan; however, if we don’t we may need to explore further workforce reductions.”

The Chicago Tribune’s last round of job cuts in March eliminated at least a dozen newsroom positions — just one day before the company disclosed raises and bonuses for chief executive officer Justin Dearborn and chief financial officer Terry Jimenez.

At least three bidders reportedly have submitted offers to buy Tribune Publishing. Also in the background is Michael Sacks, prominent Chicago businessman and CEO of Grosvenor Capital Management, who may be seeking the controlling shares of former chairman Michael Ferro.

In addition to the Chicago Tribune, the company owns the New York Daily News, Baltimore Sun, Orlando Sentinel and papers in six other cities.

Here is the text of the email to Tribune managers and editors:

As Justin Dearborn and other leaders have communicated this year, our overall goal at Tribune Publishing is to accelerate our Company’s transformation into a truly digitally-focused enterprise – one that can sustain the meaningful journalism we have delivered for centuries. We need to continually develop new approaches to engage our readers. We are balancing this goal with extending the runway of our print business.

Although we are making progress against these goals, we continue to operate in a challenging business environment. Based on the ongoing trends in our industry, we need to make some difficult decisions to align our costs with revenue trends.

Reducing our costs through employee reductions is always our last resort. Today, will be announcing that we are offering a Voluntary Separation Incentive Program (‘VSIP’) with enhanced severance benefits to a select group of employees across the company based on business function. We hope to meet our financial targets through this buyout plan; however, if we don’t we may need to explore further workforce reductions.

As leaders who may have employees who meet the eligibility criteria, you should know the following information to support your decision whether to accept or decline the employee’s application. We will be notifying all eligible employees about this VSIP via email today at 12 pm CST.

Eligibility requirements:

  • Full-time non-union employees with ten (10) or more years of service

Who is not eligible?

  • Employees with less than ten (10) years of completed service
  • Employees represented by a union (Note: After we notify the unions of this plan, we anticipate making an equivalent offer to eligible union employees by 11/16/2018)
  • Advertising/Sales employees
  • M&D employees in production roles
  • NY Daily News newsroom employees
  • Part-time and temporary employees; Interns

Next steps:

  • Only eligible employees will be notified of this plan via a November 9 email from Tribune Publishing
  • Eligible employees must submit their completed VSIP application to their HR business partner by Monday, November 26 at 10am CST
  • HR Business Partners will send a list of VSIP applicants to the applicable managers on Tuesday, November 27 by 9am CST
  • Managers will work with their department leaders to review applications for approval on November 27
  • Department heads have the final decision authority. The decisions regarding VSIP applicants are due to HR on Tuesday 11/27 by 5pm CST
  • Employees will be notified by Noon CST on Wednesday, November 28 whether their VSIP application is approved
  • The last day of work for employees whose VSIP application is approved will be November 30, 2018. Please note that all approval decisions are final.
  • The position of an approved employee will not be backfilled nor will the termination date of 11/30/18 be approved for extension

If you have any questions or need additional information, please contact your HR business partner.

Kind regards,

Maya A. Bordeaux

Senior Vice President, Human Resources