Former Tribune Publishing chairman Michael Ferro described California billionaire and civic leader Eli Broad as being part of a “Jewish cabal” during a company meeting in 2016, according to an NPR report published Wednesday.
Ferro, who exited the company in March after a tumultuous tenure, made the remarks during a 2016 strategy dinner at an upscale restaurant near the company’s Chicago headquarters, NPR reporter David Folkenflik reported, citing two unnamed individuals who attended the event.
Earlier this year, Tribune paid a $2.5 million settlement to a fired Tribune executive in order to avoid a lawsuit that would have led to public disclosure of Ferro’s alleged remarks about Broad, NPR reported, citing three people with knowledge of the deal. The Los Angeles Times later reported that it was former Los Angeles Times publisher and editor Davan Maharaj who received the payout.
A rep for Tribune Publishing declined to comment on NPR’s report. However, a rep for Ferro told TheWrap, “Mr. Ferro categorically denies those reckless allegations. Further, regarding Mr. Broad, he and Mr. Ferro are friends and Mr. Ferro thinks the world of Mr. Broad.”
Ferro’s leadership of Tribune Publishing was deeply divisive, with the executive overseeing waves of layoffs and cost-cutting across various properties as well as the renaming of the company to the widely ridiculed tronc. Under his tenure, he saw the company unload its flagship asset, the Los Angeles Times, to billionaire Patrick Soon-Shiong for a half-billion dollars.
Ferro was ultimately forced to step down from the company in March of 2018 after accusations of sexual misconduct surfaced dating from his tenure at a Chicago investment firm.
According to a report from Fortune, Ferro forcibly kissed The Muse CEO and co-founder Kathryn Minshew in 2013, after making an investment in her startup the year before. A second woman, Hagan Kappler, an executive at manufacturing giant Ingersoll Rand, told the magazine that Ferro groped her during a meeting in a Las Vegas hotel suite.
Ferro still, however, remains close to his successor on the job, Justin Dearborn, and is the largest shareholder — owning more than a quarter of the company’s shares.
Downsizing continued after Ferro’s exit, however, with savage cuts hitting the Tribune-owned New York Daily News in July. Management at the historic tabloid said later they were not sure themselves what the plan would be for employees who remained.