Another Tribune payday for Michael Ferro — $13.6 million

Tribune Publishing

You may have missed an interesting footnote to news last week that Chicago-based Tribune Publishing declared a special cash dividend of $56 million to its shareholders.

Buried in the details was word that Michael Ferro, the company’s former chairman and still its biggest shareholder, would pocket a cool $13.6 million himself.

Michael Ferro

Ferro, you’ll recall, resigned as chairman last year just hours before Fortune magazine published a scathing report that accused him of inappropriate sexual behavior toward two women. On the way out Ferro was handed a $15 million “consulting fee” (later reduced by $2.5 million to $12.5 million).

In December NPR reported that Tribune Publishing made secret payments of more than $2.5 million to keep a former publisher and editor of the Los Angeles Times from disclosing Ferro’s comments about a “Jewish cabal” that ran Los Angeles. A spokesman for Ferro denied he made the slur. Tribune Publishing declined to comment.

Steve Daniels, senior reporter for Crain’s Chicago Business, pointed out that while the company pays Ferro a “needless dividend” of nearly $14 million, it has eliminated 929 positions over the past 15 months, according to filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

“Just did the math,” Daniels tweeted. “The layoffs accounted for 18 percent of their workforce. So, yeah, a $56 million, one-time dividend makes perfect sense for a company that’s pink-slipped nearly one in five of its workers.”

The Chicago Tribune reported it was the first dividend paid to shareholders since Tribune Publishing spun off in August 2014 as a stand-alone company. The company had $98.2 million in unrestricted cash at the end of the first quarter, making it “both a potential buyer of other media properties and an acquisition target.”

Tim Knight, president and CEO of Tribune Publishing, said the dividend “reflects our confidence in future performance as we continue investing in our award-winning journalism, building our digital subscribership, and enhancing our platform for advertisers,” adding: “We believe these investments will deliver long-term value for our shareholders.”

Friday’s comment of the day: Jim Vail: May I suggest that WGN take the plaques out of storage and incorporate them into a stairway leading down to the river. You know, where their current ratings are.