LA Times, Tribune War Led to Publisher Firing, Fallout Continues

Austin Beutner’s ousting has Los Angeles employees fearing for their jobs, blaming Chicago-based Jack Griffin

Former Los Angeles Times publisher Austin Beutner was marginalized by parent company Tribune Publishing before ultimately being fired two weeks ago, the New York Times reported in a recent expose.

Beutner (pictured above), a finance mogul and ex-deputy mayor, had only held the job for a year.

“In Chicago, executives saw him as imperious and defiant, imperiling a centralization strategy that had recently saved the company $75 million,” the Midtown Manhattan-based paper wrote in an in-depth Sunday story.

Plus, the now ex-L.A. Times boss just didn’t get along with his boss, Tribune chief Jack Griffin. Their relationship was described as “somewhere between nonexistent and hostile,” per the lengthy Sunday story.

While those in Chicago seem to support the axing, Beutner’s strategy for the L.A. Times to focus locally on better technology, new sections and events was well-received in Southern California.

“Beutner and his plan represented ambition and optimism after more than a decade of management turnover, layoffs and cost-cutting that had demoralized many employees and reduced the newsroom from 1,200 to its current staff of about 500,” the N.Y. Times wrote. “The strategy, focused on growth, had quickly yielded more than $1 million in new revenue, and looked poised to yield more.”

Beyond the bottom line and support from employees, even politicians came to the defense of Beutner — including former Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, one of 50 local leaders who signed a letter to Tribune protesting the canning. The City Council sent another letter, and the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors passed a similar resolution.

But Los Angeles and Chicago are thousands of miles away — not only geographically, but strategically. While execs in the Windy City want a centralized midwest work force, employees in the Golden State blame the struggles on poor decision making at the parent company.

Among all the chaos, the L.A. newspaper may have a savior: Billionaire philanthropist Eli Broad is once again preparing to buy the Times from Tribune. While Tribune is open to hearing offers, the attempt may be too little too late, as another 80 job cuts appear to be on the horizon — an effort to save another $10 million.