Michael Ferro, the largest shareholder of tronc, Inc., is stepping down as chairman of the publisher which includes the Chicago Tribune, New York Daily News, South Florida Sun-Sentinel and other newspapers.
Justin Dearborn, CEO of tronc, Inc., has been named chairman of the board.
Ferro’s decision to step down follows the company’s $500 million deal to sell the Los Angeles Times, San Diego Union-Tribune, and other California titles to tronc’s second largest individual shareholder, Los Angeles entrepreneur Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong. That transaction is expected to close in the next several weeks.
“Michael retires having created considerable shareholder value for the company in just two years as chairman of the board,” said Dearborn. “The California News Group transaction he engineered leaves the company in its strongest financial position in more than a decade.”
Ferro personally owns $7 million in tronc stock. His company, Merrick Venture Management, owns 3.827 million shares valued at $61 million. Ferro, who was already owner of the Chicago Sun-Times, became majority owner of Tribune Publishing in February, 2016, when he bought a 17 percent stake in the iconic publisher.
By then, it had split into two separate companies: Tribune Publishing (newspaper holdings) and Tribune Media (broadcast holdings). In June 2016, Ferro changed the name to tronc, an acronym for Tribune online content.
“I want to thank everyone who worked so hard over the last two years creating great journalism, strengthening the company’s financial position and delivering significant value for shareholders,” said Ferro. “I am confident that under the leadership of Justin and the rest of the board and management team tronc will continue to deliver value for investors while executing the plan for digital transformation.”
Dearborn, who previously worked with Ferro at another of his businesses, Merge Healthcare, was appointed CEO of Tribune Publishing in February 2016.