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LA Times Publisher Ross Levinsohn Out Even After Paper Clears Him in Sexual Harassment Investigation

Tronc found ”no wrongdoing“ by publisher, but he’s going to run a new Tronc division

L.A. Times Publisher Ross Levinsohn has been cleared in an investigation into sexual harassment but will be leaving his role leading the paper as part of a sale announced on Wednesday.

Tronc said in the announcement of its sale of the L.A. Times to billionaire Patrick Shoon-Shiong that an independent investigation found “no wrongdoing” by Levinsohn, the LA Times reported. Tronc also announced that Levinsohn will lead a new division called Tribune Interactive, which will be unaffiliated with the LA Times, and insiders confirmed that Levinsohn will no longer be publisher.

The investigation was opened by Tronc after reports of “frat house” behavior and sexual harassment at previous companies surfaced in court papers last month. Levinsohn has been on unpaid leave since Jan. 19. A representative for Tronc did not immediately reply to TheWrap’s request for comment.

Levinsohn has been sued in two separate sexual harassment lawsuits. In a suit when he was vice president at Alta Vista in 2001, he admitted in his own testimony to rating the “hotness” of female colleagues, and to speculating whether one female employee was a stripper, according to NPR’s report.

In June 2006, Levinsohn was a defendant in another sexual harassment case when he was senior vice president at Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. Amber Tribble said that when she asked Levinsohn for a promotion, he pointed to an employee who was formerly a pin-up model, and said she had “learned how to work her way to the top.” Tribble withdrew the case in December 2006 but filed again with the same allegations of sexual harassment in June 2007. It was settled in April 2008.

Levinsohn has held positions at CBS and Yahoo, and was the controlling owner at The Hollywood Reporter and Billboard magazine before landing at Tronc when it was still Tribune Media.

This comes alongside news of the $500 million cash sale to billionaire Patrick Soon-Shiong, who is purchasing the LA Times and the San Diego Union-Tribune from Tronc. The deal includes $90 million in pension liabilities. The sale is expected to close in April.

Soon-Shiong, the founder of Culver City-based NantHealth and a major shareholder in Tronc, helped keep the company from being purchased by Gannett, but he and chairman Michael Ferro have been feuding since.

Of the sale, Soon-Shiong said, “We look forward to continuing the great tradition of award-winning journalism carried out by the reporters and editors of the Los Angeles Times, The San Diego Union Tribune and the other California News Group titles.”

“We are pleased to transition leadership of the Los Angeles Times and The San Diego-Union Tribune to local ownership, and we are certain that the journalistic excellence in Southern California will continue long into the future,” Tronc CEO Justin Dearborn said in a statement. “This transaction allows us to fully repay our outstanding debt, significantly lower our pension liabilities and have a substantial cash position following the close of the transaction.”

The newly-formed LA Times guild issued a statement of congratulations to Soon-Shiong Wednesday:

“We would like to congratulate Patrick Soon-Shiong as the new owner of the Los Angeles Times,” the statement said. “Our readers expect and deserve the high-quality, independent journalism that has defined The Times for decades. This is important to Los Angeles, California and the nation.”

“The L.A. Times Guild looks forward to working with a local owner who can help us preserve The Times as a guardian of our community and as the voice of the American West,” it concluded.