Tribune Publishing Chairman Michael Ferro has donated his stake in the Chicago Sun-Times to a charitable trust.
In a statement issued Wednesday, Sandra Martin, chief financial officer of Tribune Publishing, said Ferro’s “divestiture will create a very clear separation of ownership and avoid perceived conflicts of interest, while also providing millions of dollars for community programs and other charitable causes.”
Ferro had been the majority owner of Chicago Sun-Times’ parent company Wrapports when, early last month, a company he led, Merrick Media, bought a 16.6 percent stake in Sun-Times’ rival Tribune Publishing for $44.4 million. It made him the Tribune’s single-largest shareholder. He moved his office out of the Sun-Times building, took over the chairman’s role at Tribune Publishing and soon had installed longtime business associate Justin Dearborn, a man with no journalism experience, as CEO, replacing Jack Griffin, the man who’d brought Ferro on board.
At the time, Ferro retained his majority investment stake in Wrapports. But he stepped down as Wrapports’ chairman and ceded all control of the Sun-Times and affiliated companies, including the Chicago Reader and Aggrego, a national network of online-only publications.
Ferro had led the acquisition of the Sun-Times in 2011 after the death of late Sun-Times owner James Tyree.
Dearborn — who recently attended the Academy Awards with Ferro, using four of the six tickets allocated to the Los Angeles Times — is former chief executive of Merge Healthcare, a Ferro-backed, Chicago-based information technology firm acquired by IBM in October for $1 billion. He has worked for Ferro since at least 1997.
Also on Wednesday, Tribune Publishing announced several management changes; among them is that the top editors at newspapers across Tribune Publishing’s portfolio now carry the title of publisher and editor-in-chief. That includes Bruce Dold, recently named editor of the Tribune.