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Bombshell: Scandal rocks tronc

Monday, Mar 19, 2018

* Tribune

Michael Ferro is retiring from the board of Tronc ahead of the newspaper chain’s $500 million sale of the Los Angeles Times and other California assets.

Ferro’s retirement is effective immediately, the company said. Justin Dearborn, chief executive officer of Tronc, was named to succeed Ferro as chairman of the company that also owns the Chicago Tribune, New York Daily News and other major daily newspapers. […]

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, the company said in the news release.

* The rest of the story from Fortune Magazine

Kathryn Minshew finally felt like a weight had lifted. It was September of 2013, and after months of back-and-forth, Michael Ferro, then-chairman of investment firm Wrapports, had at last signed a term sheet promising her career-advice startup, The Muse, the $750,000 infusion of capital it needed to make it past the end of the year. Now, at Ferro’s suggestion, the two were headed to his company’s corporate apartment in downtown Chicago for an evening of takeout and discussion of how The Muse might go on to a land a much bigger round of funding.

But once they stepped into the apartment, Ferro seemed to forget about their plans to strategize. He poured two glasses of bourbon and, giving one to Minshew, put his hand on the back of her head and pulled her face in for a kiss, she says. Although the move was forceful enough that she couldn’t pull away, she says she was able to turn her head so that Ferro’s lips landed on her cheek. […]

Less than three years later in Las Vegas during the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show, Hagan Kappler says she found herself in a similar position—at a private dinner in Ferro’s Aria hotel suite under the pretense of doing business. Kappler, then an executive at manufacturing giant Ingersoll Rand, thought she was there to talk thermostats with Ferro, who had recently sold his healthcare startup to IBM. Instead, Kappler says he repeatedly wrapped his arms around her from behind. She told him he was in her space and that she didn’t like it. Then he did it again, this time groping her breast. […]

On Monday, Ferro announced that he was retiring from the board of directors of Tronc, and that CEO Justin Dearborn would succeed him as chairman. Ferro will still be paid $5 million-per-year by Tronc through Dec. 31, 2020, to serve as a consultant. […]

Fortune reached out to Ferro last week with the details of both women’s accounts. Through a spokesman, he declined to be interviewed and did not address or dispute any of the specific allegations made by Minshew and Kappler or others in this story.

Today Ferro’s spokesman provided this statement to Fortune: “Over more than 20 years of leading public companies and other enterprises, Michael Ferro has never had a claim filed against him nor a settlement made on his behalf. Your on-the-record allegations appear to involve private conduct with private individuals who were not employees of tronc or any other company he ran. As recently announced, Mr. Ferro has retired back to private life after leading a financial turnaround of tronc as the non-executive chairman. There will, therefore, be no other comment.”

* Related…

* More layoffs hit Chicago Tribune newsroom: Thursday’s layoffs and the uncertainty surrounding them may help fortify an effort to unionize Tribune editorial employees. Last week a group of staffers met with representatives of the Chicago News Guild, longtime bargaining agent for the Sun-Times and numerous suburban papers. The meeting was described as preliminary to a full-scale organizing effort.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

27 Comments
  1. - 47th Ward - Monday, Mar 19, 18 @ 3:57 pm:

    ===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…===

    “…questions Fortune Magazine was asking.”

    That sounds closer to the truth to me.


  2. - Precinct Captain - Monday, Mar 19, 18 @ 4:05 pm:

    Sam Zell, Randy Michaels, Michael Ferro…what is it about the Tribune that attracts these guys?


  3. - @misterjayem - Monday, Mar 19, 18 @ 4:06 pm:

    A quick review of Michael Ferro’s statement regarding the allegations:

    “Over more than 20 years of leading public companies and other enterprises, Michael Ferro has never had a claim filed against him nor a settlement made on his behalf.”

    • Not a denial.

    “Your on-the-record allegations appear to involve private conduct with private individuals who were not employees of tronc or any other company he ran.”

    • Not a denial.

    “As recently announced, Mr. Ferro has retired back to private life after leading a financial turnaround of tronc as the non-executive chairman.”

    • Not a denial.

    “There will, therefore, be no other comment.”

    • Not a denial.

    – MrJM


  4. - Leigh John-Ella - Monday, Mar 19, 18 @ 4:08 pm:

    I read the “private conduct with private individuals” as being as close to a confession as we’re going to see outside a courtroom.

    It is also a junk excuse.


  5. - rauner's beyatch - Monday, Mar 19, 18 @ 4:09 pm:

    Rauner’s biggest supporter bites the dust. Ferro was a total pig.


  6. - hisgirlfriday - Monday, Mar 19, 18 @ 4:14 pm:

    These latest revelations put tronc’s reinstatement and promotion to ceo of tribune interactive of that other accused creep ex-la times publisher ross levinsohn in another light.


  7. - don the legend - Monday, Mar 19, 18 @ 4:15 pm:

    “Your on-the-record allegations appear to involve private conduct with private individuals who were not employees of tronc or any other company he ran.”

    So it’s not harassment it’s just plain assault. Gotcha


  8. - Truthteller - Monday, Mar 19, 18 @ 4:15 pm:

    What does Bruce Dold have to say about this?


  9. - Chicago Cynic - Monday, Mar 19, 18 @ 4:16 pm:

    I’ve heard so many stories of Ferro’s shenanigans over the years. This is just another chapter in a really ugly book.


  10. - RNUG - Monday, Mar 19, 18 @ 4:25 pm:

    == So it’s not harassment it’s just plain assault. ==

    Well … it’s not direct workplace harassment … just, apparently, the price of doing business with the company.


  11. - @misterjayem - Monday, Mar 19, 18 @ 4:28 pm:

    This line is worth revisiting: “Your on-the-record allegations appear to involve private conduct with private individuals who were not employees of tronc or any other company he ran.”

    The logic of Ferro’s statement characterizes all of his accusers using two distinct dichotomies:
    1) “on-the-record” (explicitly mentioned) vs. off-the-record (logically implied), and
    2) “not employees” (explicitly mentioned) vs. employees (logically implied)

    Ferro’s statement correctly characterizes both of the “on-the-record” accusers in this article as members of the “not employees” class.

    But what about any off-the-record accusers? Do they exist as Ferro’s statement implies? And if so, are they all in the “not employees” class?

    Unfortunately, Ferro doesn’t address that question — but I suspect it will be addressed in the near future.

    – MrJM


  12. - midwaygardens - Monday, Mar 19, 18 @ 4:37 pm:

    And he will be a paid management consultant to the company. $5 M a year over three years.


  13. - cover - Monday, Mar 19, 18 @ 4:46 pm:

    Must be nice to get a $5M per year golden parachute for offenses that should have gotten him fired for cause.


  14. - Anonymous - Monday, Mar 19, 18 @ 4:50 pm:

    Kass will blame The Combine. Katrina will ignore it.


  15. - Rabid - Monday, Mar 19, 18 @ 4:51 pm:

    Who gets to keep the blago tapes in the divorce


  16. - Moe Berg - Monday, Mar 19, 18 @ 4:52 pm:

    tronc’s #MeToo problem

    Let’s do a find-and-replace on a 3/9/2018 tronc editorial about Speaker Madigan and this issue:

    Why is tronc struggling? Because it hasn’t taken decisive action to fix the culture of harassment and bullying in its operations: It hasn’t agreed to an independent investigation of the company or its CEO. Instead, tronc is Doldsplaining the moment, acting as if it knows best how to solve a company injustice.


  17. - Morty - Monday, Mar 19, 18 @ 4:56 pm:

    Wow, who would have figured the Tronc guy (who also forced the Sun Times to endorse BVR) would be a skeez?


  18. - Yellow Dog Democrat - Monday, Mar 19, 18 @ 5:31 pm:

    Moe Berg nails it.

    How can the Chicago Tribune continue to provide coverage of sexual harassment, whether it is in film, government of the private sector, while ignoring the rampant problems under their very own roof?

    Is there not one reporter at the Sun-Times, Reader, Xran’s, Res Publica willing to give victims at the Chicago Tribune a voice?


  19. - Soccermom - Monday, Mar 19, 18 @ 5:34 pm:

    Cynic, these are not “shenanigans.” These are crimes — or at least torts. What does it say to the many talented women who work at the Trib that their chief executive considered women unworthy of basic respect?


  20. - Wensicia - Monday, Mar 19, 18 @ 5:51 pm:

    ==Ferro will still be paid $5 million-per-year by Tronc through Dec. 31, 2020, to serve as a consultant.==

    BTW, how many Tribune reporters lost their jobs this past week?


  21. - wordslinger - Monday, Mar 19, 18 @ 6:45 pm:

    ==Ferro will still be paid $5 million-per-year by Tronc through Dec. 31, 2020, to serve as a consultant.==

    Yeah, he made a deal with himself for that payday. Sweet.

    Not only that, but his cronies have other schemes to milk the papers dry.

    https://www.npr.org/2018/03/09/591481302/startups-deals-parties-and-pals-will-news-exec-levinsohn-repeat-the-past


  22. - Amalia - Monday, Mar 19, 18 @ 6:53 pm:

    I can’t even because I’m filled with rage over this and the other reveals of the many men who are criminals and contemptible pigs.


  23. - @misterjayem - Monday, Mar 19, 18 @ 7:08 pm:

    “Tribune reporters lost their jobs this past week?”

    Fourteen.

    – MrJM


  24. - Honeybadger - Monday, Mar 19, 18 @ 9:28 pm:

    As a former Trib employee and still a stockholder, I will be sending a letter requesting Mr. Ferro NOT be paid a single dime. I hope charges are brought against him.


  25. - wordslinger - Monday, Mar 19, 18 @ 9:57 pm:

    –As a former Trib employee and still a stockholder,–

    Stockholders might want to get a little active as to how Ferro and his cronies are milking the place dry with their inside dealing.

    Trib reporters, too. The LA Times crew did. And voted to unionize.


  26. - wordslinger - Monday, Mar 19, 18 @ 10:23 pm:

    –“Tribune reporters lost their jobs this past week?”

    Fourteen.–

    Read this extended, nonsensical mush from Dold on the changes. Talk about burying the lede; there’s not a straight, coherent statement in the whole mess.

    That’s the weasel-wording of a company man, not the writing of a newspaperman.

    http://www.robertfeder.com/2018/03/05/dold-revamps-tribune-newsroom-nimble-entrepreneurial/


  27. - wordslinger - Tuesday, Mar 20, 18 @ 8:47 am:

    Trib up online this morning with the saddest excuse for a news story you’ll ever see.

    All it does is quote reporting by Fortune and the NYT.

    The story is literally in their house, and they’ve got nothing.


Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.


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