With sale completed, Tribune Publishing CEO is out

Terry Jimenez, who had led the company since January 2020, opposed the sale to Alden Global Capital but leaves with a $2.55 million package.

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The Chicago Tribune’s Freedom Center printing plant in the River West neighborhood.

The Chicago Tribune’s Freedom Center printing plant in the River West neighborhood.

Pat Nabong/Sun-Times file

Tribune Publishing’s CEO has left the company, employees of the Chicago-based company were told Tuesday, the first day new owners took charge of the 174-year-old publisher of the Chicago Tribune and eight other large daily newspapers.

Alden Global Capital, now the owner, also reported that it will finance its acquisition with $278 million in loans from a private equity firm and from one of its own companies. The deal adds debt to a publisher that, like most print media outlets, has faced steady declines in circulation and ad revenue.

Employees were told in a brief memo that CEO Terry Jimenez had left the company. Jimenez, who was the only Tribune Publishing board member to oppose its sale to Alden Global Capital, had been the CEO since January 2020 and with the company in executive roles since April 2016.

The departure was a certainty, although its swiftness could indicate Alden’s intent to quickly put its mark on operations. The sale was officially completed Monday, which was the last day shares of Tribune Publishing were publicly traded.

The company announced shareholder approval of Alden’s $17.25-a-share buyout at a board meeting Friday. At the same meeting, it also revealed shareholder approval of what it frankly labeled as “golden parachute” compensation for outgoing executives.

Jimenez will get $2.55 million for heading a company that has slashed its employee headcount by more than 30% since the end of 2019. The money includes salary, bonuses and compensation for stock options, according to filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

His immediate exit was reported to employees by Jean Nechvatal, the company’s human resources vice president, who added only that “we wish him the best on his future endeavors.” She also said the new owners call themselves Tribune Enterprises.

The company and Alden had no immediate comment. In a regulatory filing, Tribune said Alden President Heath Freeman has been named its president as well.

Alden also told the SEC it has financed the acquisition with a $218 million first-lien loan from an affiliate of New York-based Cerberus Capital Management, a private equity firm. The floating-rate loan matures May 24, 2026, the filing said.

Also, the company said it has secured a $60 million second-lien loan from a unit of MediaNews Group, which it already owns. The loan earns 13% interest and matures May 24, 2027, the filing said.

Tribune, which emerged from bankruptcy in 2012, was debt free.

Alden, a New York hedge fund known for buying newspapers and slashing payroll, is widely expected to combine Tribune with MediaNews Group, owner of more than 200 publications across the U.S. Alden previously owned about a third of Tribune and its acquisition needed approval of more than two-thirds of the holders of stock it did not control.

The company said it got approval from owners of more than 81% of those shares. The transaction valued the company at about $636 million, with Alden’s outlay for the shares it didn’t own being around $431 million.

Also getting an exit package was Mike Lavey, the interim chief financial officer. His compensation totaled nearly $945,000.

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