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Edwin Eisendrath resigns as Sun-Times Media CEO

Edwin Eisendrath

Edwin Eisendrath | Rich Hein/Sun-Times file photo

Edwin Eisendrath, the former alderman who partnered with labor unions and others to buy the Chicago Sun-Times last year, has resigned as CEO of Sun-Times Media.

Eisendrath expanded the paper’s digital and video journalism, increased newsroom diversity and presided over the sale of the Chicago Reader after controversy involving the alt-weekly’s management and staff.

He and his labor-dominated investment group outdueled Chicago Tribune owner Tronc in a bid for the Sun-Times in July 2017.

Eisendrath, 60, resigned at a company board meeting Monday. In a statement, he said he and his leadership team were “largely successful” in their efforts to save the Sun-Times.

“In a difficult time for journalism and democracy, my life changed when there was an effort to destroy the independent voice of the Sun-Times by merging it into the Tribune. I determined right then to do what I could to save the paper, threw myself into the fight and have worked tirelessly ever since to save the business,” he said.

“We erased more than $8 million in annual structural losses while spending more on journalists,” Eisendrath said, adding that he believes “the company will be cash-flow positive for the first time in recent memory” by early next year.

He thanked investors for putting “democracy before their pocket books” even though they could have found higher returns in almost any other industry. He also thanked readers and the journalists at the paper.

“Now that path ahead is clear, it is time for me to move on,” he said.

At a meeting with Sun-Times employees Wednesday afternoon, he was asked about the timing of his departure and whether he was forced out.

Eisendrath said he and the board are “on the same page” about his leaving.

“I came here to do something,” Eisendrath said. “You’re there.”

He added that it was “the greatest job I’ll ever have.”

Jorge Ramirez, chairman of the board, thanked Eisendrath for his “leadership and passion.”

In a statement, Ramirez said, “Edwin helped us accomplish three goals collectively: bring people together, raise money and get the deal done. Since then, he’s worked every day not only to save the paper but deliver on the promise of building a news organization that has the backs of working men and women.”

The board has named the Sun-Times’ chief operating officer, Nykia Wright, as interim CEO.

During his tenure, Eisendrath restructured the Sun-Times’ operations to emphasize digital and video journalism with the hiring of Carol Fowler, a veteran of Chicago television management. He also brought in Matt Watson from Vox Media as chief digital strategist.

Eisendrath named former Sun-Times investigative reporter Chris Fusco the editor-in-chief of the newspaper.

Eisendrath presided over the newspaper’s move from its offices in the Apparel Center at 350 N. Orleans into a building at 30 N. Racine in the West Loop late last year.

He also recently announced a makeover of the Sun-Times’ website next year on a platform powered by Vox Media.

A Harvard graduate, Eisendrath was a Chicago Public schools teacher and Chicago’s 43rd Ward alderman from 1987 to 1993. He served as chairman of the Chicago Housing Authority and was a regional director of the U.S. Housing and Urban Development Department. He also served as a college administrator.

He unsuccessfully ran for the Democratic nomination for governor in 2006 against Rod Blagojevich.

In July 2017, Eisendrath led a group of investors — including the Chicago Federation of Labor — in their successful bid for the Sun-Times. They secured more than $11.2 million in operating funds to bankroll the company.

At the time, Eisendrath promised the Sun-Times would have a voice that “resonates with the working class,” saying the newspaper had been “an important part of Chicago our whole lives.”

The Chicago News Guild, which represents more than 60 newsroom employees, in a statement thanked Eisendrath “for his tireless work to preserve jobs in Chicago journalism and to assure that the Sun-Times and the Chicago Reader continue as independent, vibrant news sources. Working in close partnership with the Chicago Federation of Labor and its allied unions, Eisendrath improved the finances at both publications while making certain that they elevate the voices of working people and everyday Chicagoans. He showed great enthusiasm for the work and has prepared both publications for a bright future.”