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Michael Ferro moves to sell $208.6M in Tronc shares to McCormick family relative

Tribune Tower | Associated Press file photo

Michael Ferro, the former chairman of Tronc Inc. who stepped down last month amid sexual harassment allegations, reached a deal late Friday afternoon to sell off his shares of the Chicago Tribune’s parent company, to a descendant of the family that previously controlled the newspaper for decades.

The proposed deal is worth more than $208 million, with Ferro giving up his holding of more than 9 million shares — about a quarter of the company — to McCormick Media LLC at $23 per share, according to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filing.

Sargent McCormick, the buyer’s listed manager, is related to the prominent Illinois family that controlled the Tribune for most of the 20th century.

Tronc CEO Justin Dearborn released a statement noting that the corporation “was not a party” to the transaction involving Ferro’s firm, Merrick Media.

“I want to emphasize that this is a private transaction between Merrick and the buyer and does not alter our business strategy or the pending sale of the California News Group,” Dearborn wrote.

The sale capped a chaotic week during what has been a turbulent year for Tronc.

Ferro himself stepped down as Tronc chairman last month, hours before reports surfaced in which two women accused him of sexual misconduct. Other top executives have been accused of harassment as well.

The company sold off its largest asset, the Los Angeles Times, in early February, shortly after journalists there voted to unionize — but the sale has yet to close.

After an announced newsroom realignment included an estimated 14 layoffs, Tribune employees this week announced an effort to unionize.

And Tronc’s overhaul might not yet be over. The New York Post reported that billionaire Leon Black was mulling buying the entire company outright.

Ferro previously chaired the ownership group that owned the Chicago Sun-Times before he bought a controlling stake in Tribune Publishing for $44.4 million and changed its name to Tronc.