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Former Tronc chair selling his stake in the newspaper publishing company

Michael Ferro, the former chairman of newspaper publisher Tronc, has agreed to sell his entire stake in the company t...

Posted: Apr 14, 2018 1:43 PM
Updated: Apr 14, 2018 1:43 PM

Michael Ferro, the former chairman of newspaper publisher Tronc, has agreed to sell his entire stake in the company to a new media firm.

Ferro owned 25.4% of Tronc's outstanding shares, giving him the controlling stake. The public filing posted Friday says he is selling all 9 million of his shares for about $209 million. The deal is expected to close next month, pending final approval.

Tronc is the parent company of newspapers including the Chicago Tribune, The Baltimore Sun, the New York Daily News, and the Orlando Sentinel.

The buyer is McCormick Media, according to the filing. The Chicago Tribune reported that McCormick Media is owned by the family of Robert "the Colonel" McCormick, which controlled the Tribune throughout much of its history. A spokesperson for Tronc confirmed the family's ownership of McCormick Media.

The sale marks a final severing of ties between Tronc and Ferro, who made a sudden departure as chairman last month just before Fortune magazine published an investigation into claims of sexual harassment against him. A spokesperson for Ferro did not refute the allegations.

Related: First came the questions about misconduct. Then came Tronc chair's sudden retirement

Ferro's tenure at Tronc was cheered by Wall Street investors. Under his leadership, the firm's share price climbed from about $7 per share to more than $16.

But for journalists, Ferro's leadership was painful. Management at The Tribune, the Los Angeles Times and others said he was responsible for budget cuts that scaled back the newsrooms' resources and ability to cover stories. Tronc said earlier this year it was selling the The Los Angeles Times to a California billionaire.

Justin Dearborn, Tronc's CEO, said in a note to employees Friday that the stock sale "does not alter our business strategy."

Robert McCormick, the former Tribune owner whose family controls McCormick Media, headed the Chicago Tribune for decades. A staff writer for the Tribune once wrote that he was a "champion of press freedom" who was heavily involved in the paper's day-to-day coverage.

A representative for McCormick Media could not be reached for comment Friday.

-CNN's Brian Stelter contributed to this report.

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