Tribune Publishing Co. replaces Jack Griffin as CEO

CHICAGO – Tribune Publishing Co., the troubled owner of the Chicago Tribune and other newspapers around the country, announced Tuesday that it is replacing Jack Griffin as CEO less than two years after he joined the company.

The change comes less than three weeks after the company named Chicago investor Michael W. Ferro Jr. as its non-executive chairman following a $44.4 million cash infusion from Ferro’s Merrick Media. Merrick also holds a stake in crosstown rival Chicago Sun-Times.

Tribune Publishing named Justin Dearborn to be its new CEO. He most recently was CEO of Merge, a publicly traded health care technology company that IBM acquired in October.

“Although this is a different medium than my last technology company, it has the same challenge on how to create the highest value for our content,” Dearborn said in a printed statement.

Griffin joined Tribune Publishing in April 2014. The company said he was instrumental in the spin-off that created Tribune Publishing and cited his work managing costs.

“The timing is right for a new leader to come on board and lead Tribune Publishing through its next phase of transformation,” Griffin said in a company release.

The Chicago Tribune last week announced the resignation of Gerould Kern, its editor since 2008. He was replaced by Bruce Dold, the newspaper’s editorial page editor.

Ferro has a stake in the Sun-Times through a company called Wrapports. Because of the Tribune investment, he has stepped down from the board of Wrapports. Tribune said Ferro will keep his stake in Wrapports, but he will not attend meetings related to Sun-Times Media Holdings.

“The board thanks Jack Griffin for his significant contributions and wishes him the best of luck in his future endeavours,” Ferro said in a printed statement.

The Tribune said Tuesday that Dearborn has a long track record of working with Ferro at several software companies.

At the same time the investment from Ferro was announced, Tribune Publishing suspended its quarterly dividend to free up more money after a difficult year. Revenue has slumped as readers and advertisers continue to migrate online and the company has trimmed staff to cut costs. Its stock has plummeted 68 per cent in the last year.

Tribune Publishing, based in Chicago, owns 11 daily newspapers, including the Los Angeles Times and the Orlando Sentinel. It spun off from media company Tribune Co. about two years ago.