New CEO for Tribune Publishing

CHICAGO (Chicago Tribune/TNS) -

Three weeks after welcoming Michael Ferro as the largest shareholder and nonexecutive chairman of Tribune Publishing, Jack Griffin is out as CEO.

Griffin, who has guided Tribune Publishing since its August 2014 spinoff, has been replaced by technology executive and longtime Ferro associate Justin Dearborn, the Chicago-based newspaper company confirmed Tuesday.

Dearborn, 46, had been CEO of Merge Healthcare, a Ferro-controlled medical technology company that was acquired by IBM in October.

“Although this is a different medium than my last technology company, it has the same challenge on how to create the highest value for our content,” Dearborn said in the news release.

Ferro became Tribune Publishing’s largest shareholder in early February, when his investment firm, Merrick Media, bought a 16.6 percent stake in a $44.4 million deal. Ferro also is the majority owner of the Chicago Sun-Times, but has said he has given up “all operating involvement” with that newspaper upon becoming nonexecutive chairman of Tribune Publishing’s board.

Tribune Publishing owns the Chicago Tribune, the Los Angeles Times and other major newspapers. When Ferro’s acquisition was announced, Griffin called Ferro “a tremendous admirer of our brands at the Tribune … so it’s a winning combination for our company.”

A Tribune Publishing spokesman declined to comment beyond the news release Tuesday.

Dearborn, who has no media experience, takes the helm of the legacy newspaper company as it struggles to reverse years of industrywide revenue declines and transition to a digital-first medium. He has a long track record with Ferro, however, having worked together on Internet software company Click Commerce, investment firm Merrick Ventures and most recently Merge Healthcare, a Chicago-based medical software company that was sold to IBM for about $1 billion, including the assumption of nearly $198 million in debt, according to Dealogic.