Buyouts coming at company behind Chicago Tribune, LA Times

AP News
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Posted: Oct 05, 2015 5:25 PM
Buyouts coming at company behind Chicago Tribune, LA Times

NEW YORK (AP) — The owner of the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune and other newspapers is offering buyouts to employees.

Tribune Publishing announced the "Voluntary Separation Program" in a memo from CEO Jack Griffin to employees that was obtained by The Associated Press on Monday. The memo says the newspaper publisher needs to reduce costs but does not specify by how much. A separate memo to employees with more details on the buyouts says that after they are done, the company will determine if it needs to make "additional involuntary reductions" — layoffs.

Griffin's memo said that non-union employees with more than a year of service are eligible for a buyout. They have until Oct. 23 to decide whether to apply. As of December, Tribune Publishing had about 8,000 full- and part-time employees, and 12 percent of them were represented by unions.

Tribune Publishing Tribune spokesman Matt Hutchison declined to comment Monday on the buyouts.

The newspaper industry has suffered years of job losses with the shift to the Web and the accompanying decline of print ad revenue.

Tribune Publishing, which was created when Tribune split its newspaper and broadcasting assets last year, has been in turmoil after the firing of Los Angeles Times publisher Austin Beutner in early September. Beutner, a former investment banker and deputy L.A. mayor, was hired as publisher in August 2014. He was replaced by Timothy Ryan, who had been publisher of the Baltimore Sun, another Tribune paper.

Prominent Los Angeles residents, including former mayors Richard Riordan and Antonio Villaraigosa, protested the firing of Beutner in an open letter that urged Tribune Publishing to "continue with leadership that knows and loves Los Angeles." The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors also got involved, saying it recommended local leadership.

The Los Angeles Times had reported that Tribune Publishing rejected an offer from a local philanthropist, Eli Broad, to buy the Times and the San Diego Union-Tribune from Tribune Publishing.

Then, in late September, Tribune Publishing cut its outlook for the year, citing lower expectations for revenue and delayed cost cuts, particularly in Southern California. The company defended replacing Beutner with Ryan, saying he was the ideal choice to lead the California papers, as he is committed to Tribune's goals.

Tribune Publishing owns 11 major daily newspapers.