Tribune Publishing, owner of more than a half dozen newspapers, including The Sun, is starting the new year offering company-wide buyouts, president and CEO Tim Knight announced in an email to employees.
Workers with eight years of service or more are eligible for the buyout package, and Knight wrote that those employees will be notified by the human relations department this afternoon.
Today’s announcement comes two months after Alden Global Capital, a New York-based hedge fund once dubbed a “destroyer of newspapers,” bought a 32 percent stake in Tribune Publishing. As part of the acquisition, Alden received two seats on Tribune’s board and is eligible to up its stake in the company beyond 33 percent after June.
Despite strong growth in digital subscriptions, Knight said the company’s bottom line still relies on print subscriptions and distribution, areas that are expected to decline in future years. There are no plans to discontinue those services, he wrote.
“While it is our desire to retain all of our talented employees, we must confront and plan for the significant financial hurdles ahead.”
On Twitter, the Baltimore Sun News Guild, a union representing the local daily’s newsroom, seized on a quote from Knight that the company is “in a better position now than at any time” since it was separated from Tribune Co., operator of multiple TV stations, in 2014.
They called for further investments in newsrooms and said today’s notice was in line with Alden’s goal of “boost[ing] profits by cutting costs.”
— Baltimore Sun Guild ☀️ (@baltsunguild) January 13, 2020
Journalists across Tribune have been wary of Alden from the start. In December, a group of 400, including dozens under the Baltimore Sun Media Group umbrella, petitioned the board of directors to hire more reporters, be open to selling newspapers to local ownership, negotiate fairly with unions and support the publication of an annual report on the sustainability of newsgathering.
“To follow Alden’s path would not only undermine employee morale and foment labor conflict but would violate your fiduciary responsibility to shareholders and your duty to maximize the company’s value, to both its customers and to its shareholders, over the long term,” the petition said, in part.
According to a report in the Baltimore Business Journal earlier this month, Baltimore Sun journalists have been pitching local investors, a group that includes the Abell Foundation, the Goldseker Foundation and developer David Cordish, on putting an offer in on the city’s major daily.
“We’re concerned about what could happen under Alden,” Scott Dance, unit chair for the Washington-Baltimore Newspaper Guild, told the BBJ. “Even without Alden, we’ve been hoping to get out from under Tribune for a long time and see someone invest in the paper.”
This also marks the second time since 2018 that Tribune has offered buyouts to workers. In that previous round, workers with a decade of experience or more were given a severance package to leave their jobs.