The chairman of the company that owns the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune and New York Daily News has awarded himself $15 million in consulting contracts from the publishing conglomerate, according to an SEC filing.
The document, which was filed on Friday afternoon ahead of the Christmas break, provides Merrick Media — the consulting firm owned by tronc chairman Michael Ferro — a three-year contract at $5 million per year “to provide certain management expertise and technical services.”
The contract provides for payment on the first of the year.
The document offers no other detail on what those consulting services might entail. However, it notes that Ferro’s private jet travel will now be covered by Merrick Media.
Ferro’s private travel for the newspaper giant previously drew fire because it added up to $4.6 million in 2016 and 2017.
The contract was immediately criticized by the union that is seeking to win approval from Los Angeles Times newsroom employees in a vote on January 4. A posting by the L.A. Times guild over the weekend decried Ferro’s use of a private jet in 2016 an “act of plundering [that] cost Tronc — and its newsrooms — $4.6 million between February 2016 and last September.”
The guild went on to say: “Ferro is now free to spend nearly twice that amount per year on the jet or anything else he desires. And he won’t have to break out the travel expenses on future SEC filings.”
Tronc bought the New York Daily News in September, a move to grow the conglomerate’s publishing base, but advertising revenue continued to plunge — down 14 percent year over year in the third quarter of 2017.
Total revenues for third quarter 2017 decreased 6.6 percent to $353.1 million, compared to $378.2 million for third quarter 2016.
Self-serving management moves is not new at tronc, which now trades at about $18 per share, up from about $14 a year ago. As TheWrap reported earlier this year, the company hired Ross Levinsohn to be publisher of the L.A. Times, a recommendation that management followed from a $600,000 consultant who turned out to be none other than Levinsohn himself.