By Jennifer Saba
March 6 Media executive Jack Griffin was appointed on Thursday as chief executive of Tribune Co's forthcoming spinoff newspaper company, Tribune Publishing.
Griffin has served as an adviser to Tribune through Empirical Media Advisors, the media consulting firm he co-founded.
Tribune also announced that Eddy Hartenstein, the publisher of the Los Angeles Times and former DirecTV executive, will become non-executive chairman of Tribune Publishing's board.
The appointments take effect on April 14.
Griffin will take the helm of Tribune Publishing, which includes the company's eight newspapers, such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Chicago Tribune, during a perilous time.
Under the new stand-alone company, the newspapers will be separated from Tribune's much more lucrative broadcast TV stations and its digital properties, including Classified Ventures, as advertisers shun print and readers increasingly get their news from smartphones and tablets.
"I'm going to be focused on digital and will continue to advance the revenue and profitability of the franchise," Griffin said in an interview. He declined to elaborate on how the relationship with Classified Ventures will play out. Classified Ventures is an online classified firm owned by several newspaper companies. On Monday, it sold Apartments.com for $585 million to CoStar Group.
Griffin said there are several initiatives under way at Tribune, including digital subscriptions to its newspapers and marketing services that help local businesses with website design and social media.
Tribune has not disclosed the amount of debt or other financial details of the new company, but Griffin said the capital structure will be more than sufficient. "This is a profitable company - every newspaper is profitable," he said.
Separating the sluggish print properties from faster-growing TV assets has been in vogue with media companies in the past year. News Corp split from its entertainment and cable properties that now operate under 21st Century Fox Inc, and Time Warner is preparing to spin off its magazine unit, Time Inc.
"With Eddy and Jack in place, I am confident that Tribune Publishing will continue to prosper far into the future and provide the quality journalism that has been the hallmark of its newspaper brands and digital services," Peter Liguori, chief executive officer of Tribune Co, said in a statement.
Griffin also served as the chief executive of Time Inc and president of the national media group at Meredith Corp and has roots in the newspaper business. Both his grandfather and father were journalists, and Griffin was one of the parties involved in the auction for the Boston Globe. (Boston Red Sox owner John Henry bought the Globe and its sister properties from the New York Times Co for $70 million.)
Griffin will step down from his chief executive role at Empirical, where he will be succeeded by co-founder Jim Friedlich.