Austin Beutner sounded off Tuesday about his Los Angeles Times departure, admitting he was abruptly fired from the newspaper.
“I am writing to let you know that I am leaving the Los Angeles Times, effective immediately,” Beutner wrote in a 1,316-word Facebook post. “I am not departing by choice, nor is this some ‘mutual agreement’ on my part and Tribune Publishing. Tribune Publishing has decided to fire me. I am sorry you will read this on social media, but I no longer have access to my Times email.”
The civic leader and former Wall Street investment banker was notified on Tuesday morning by Tribune CEO Jack Griffin that his services were no longer needed. In his lengthy social media post, Beutner listed his accomplishments at the Times during his year on the job.
Timothy E. Ryan, publisher of the Baltimore Sun, a Tribune newspaper, was immediately tapped to replace Beutner.
“This past year Times journalists won two Pulitzer prizes and were finalists for two more, our best showing in years,” he wrote, adding that the paper relaunched the California and business sections to “much acclaim.”
At times, his very public exit memo sounded like the former newspaper exec may be considering another run for public office: “The riveting series ‘Product of Mexico’ exposed the horrific conditions under which farmworkers in Mexico were living and working,” he wrote, noting the changes in regulation and oversight in the Mexican farming industry as a result of the Times’ story.
Among his past political experience, in 2010 then-Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa appointed Beutner deputy mayor of economic development, a position in which he oversaw 13 city departments. In April 2011, Beutner filed papers to explore a run for mayor, but dropped out of the race after a year, citing family issues.
His exit comes as the Times, like other newspapers, has seen a downward trend in circulation and revenue. Over the past few weeks, billionaire philanthropist Eli Broad made an offer to buy the paper, but the offer was rejected by Tribune, the L.A. Times reported.
Shares in Tribune Publishing have seen a free fall in the last year, down over 50 percent, leaving the company’s market value at $295 million and its stock price at $11 a share.
The L.A. Times is still a behemoth, ranking fourth in daily circulation (489,000 daily readers) after the Wall Street Journal, New York Times and USA Today.
But in the last decade, no major daily paper has hemorrhaged readership faster than the L.A. Times; Beutner didn’t stop the bleeding either: daily circulation is down to 489,000 readers compared to 739,147 daily readers in early 2014.
For Tribune, California papers are its heavyweight publishing revenue horses, so removing Beutner is a clear sign the bosses are eager to turn around the paper’s dwindling circulation. The Times and the San Diego Union Tribune represent roughly 40 percent of Tribune Publishing’s revenue and Sunday circulation.
A bright spot for the Los Angeles daily has been digital traffic; the L.A. Times ranked seventh in website unique visitors for national newspapers, according to State of the News Media’s 2015 report.
Tribune, of course, split up its publishing and broadcast divisions in 2014 after coming out of bankruptcy in 2012.