Nearly 700 layoffs hit Tribune Co. newspapers Wednesday, as CEO Peter Liguori announced a sweeping reorganization of the company’s publishing business, resulting in consolidation of advertising sales, consumer marketing, digital media and other areas.
Sources said the layoffs include about a dozen editorial positions at the Chicago Tribune — although none of those affected will be reporters or photographers.
The move follows a report here in September that Liguori had ordered $100 million in budget cuts to be put into effect by Dec. 1 as the company prepares to spin off the publishing side. A Tribune Co. spokesman at the time labeled the report “grossly inaccurate.”
As part of the reorganization, Bill Adee was promoted to head a new Tribune Publishing unit to be called Tribune Digital. Adee, who joined the Tribune as sports editor in 2002 after nine years at the Sun-Times, has been vice president of digital since 2009.
Other Tribune executives being assigned new positions include:
- Bob Fleck, senior vice president, advertising for Chicago Tribune, will become executive vice president of advertising for Tribune Publishing.
- Bill Nagel, executive vice president, business services at the Los Angeles Times, will become executive vice president of marketing for Tribune Publishing.
- Joseph Schiltz, senior vice president of marketing and targeted media for Chicago Tribune, will become senior vice president, marketing and targeted media for Tribune Publishing.
- Russ Newton, senior vice president/operations and home delivery for Los Angeles Times Media, will become senior vice president of manufacturing for Tribune Publishing.
“Our strategy is to make Tribune Publishing synonymous with the sharing of employee skills, best practices, product innovation, new revenue activities, and new content initiatives rapidly and seamlessly across the company,” said a memo from Los Angeles Times publisher Eddy Hartenstein and Tribune Publishing CEO Tony Hunter. “Each of these leaders has an established track record of success at our company.”
All of the appointments are effective Jan. 1.
Before Wednesday’s announcement, Tribune Co. already had reduced its staff by 360 positions — primarily in publishing — in the first nine months of the year, according to a report of its third-quarter financial results. About 800 publishing positions were eliminated last year.
On Tuesday, Kathy Thomson announced she was stepping down as chief operating officer of the company’s publishing division — a post she had held since April. Thompson also was president and chief operating officer of the Los Angeles Times.
Here is the memo from Liguori:
"Today, we are announcing an organizational and strategic transformation designed to ensure the long-term vitality of Tribune's publishing business. Our top priority every day is delivering outstanding journalism to our readers and great value to our advertisers, while running our business to proactively address the secular realities of the publishing industry.
"To move forward productively, we must explore innovative ways to more efficiently operate our business. Specifically, we must take better advantage of Tribune's unique size and reach. To that end, we have decided to unify the non-editorial functions of our publishing businesses.
"Aligning the non-editorial areas of our business units by function, rather than by geography, will allow us to better share best-practices, create efficiencies and maintain our local focus. This will enable us, in turn, to continue investing in the lifeblood of our business: best-in-class reporting, effective sales and digital growth.
"Going forward, it is especially important that we invest more concertedly in our digital areas so we can get ahead of the quickly evolving, digital needs of our readers. We have appointed Bill Adee to lead a new team of people charged with authoring Tribune Publishing’s digital future. Later today, Eddy Hartenstein and Tony Hunter will announce the appointments of leaders in other key publishing areas such as advertising, marketing, manufacturing and distribution, and human resources.
"Our long-time, local publishers and editors will continue leading their publishing businesses and newsrooms. This new structure will afford our publishers, editors and their staffs greater opportunity to focus on what they do best-- servicing their local readers, advertisers and communities.
"Creating these critical efficiencies and ensuring the long-term strength of our mastheads will, unfortunately, result in the selective reduction of our publishing staff. It is always difficult to part with valued colleagues, particularly those at Tribune who have unwaveringly served our publishing businesses over the years. On behalf of the entire company, I thank them for their dedication, hard work and contributions.
"I also want to thank the dozens of people across the company who have worked diligently with Eddy and Tony during the last several months to meticulously design Tribune Publishing's new operating structure. I am confident that the functionally-driven organization we are announcing today will provide our publishing businesses with the focused leadership, resources and expertise they require to successfully navigate the challenges ahead while continuing to produce the best printed and digital news products in the country."