Tronc chairman Michael Ferro stepped down from the company’s board Monday, just a hours before Fortune published a story accusing him of sexual misconduct towards two women during his time as head of a Chicago investment firm.
According to Fortune, Ferro forcibly kissed Katheryn Minshew, CEO and co-founder of The Muse in 2013, after investing in her startup a year earlier. Another woman, Hagan Kappler, an executive at Ingersoll Rand, a manufacturing giant, told Fortune that Ferro groped her in his Las Vegas hotel suite during a meeting.
“I stopped thinking in complete thoughts. My whole body felt like ice,” Minshew told Fortune. “I suddenly realized that I was alone in this apartment with him and that it might not be very easy to leave.”
In response to the Fortune story, Tronc told TheWrap: “Michael Ferro has had no claims filed against him while leading tronc as chairman. Further, we are aware of no claims filed against Mr. Ferro throughout his career. As Mr. Ferro has retired after leading a financial turnaround of tronc, we wish him well in his private life and will have no further comment.”
Earlier Monday, Tronc issued a statement saying that Ferro, 51, was retiring immediately from the board before the the newspaper chain’s sale of the Los Angeles Times and other California assets. Justin Dearborn, chief executive officer of Tronc, was named Ferro’s replacement as chairman.
“Michael retires having created considerable shareholder value for the company in just two years as chairman of the board,” said Dearborn in an official statement.
In the days leading up to the sale, the Los Angeles paper had been racked by a series of layoffs and growing public distrust between editorial and management. Tronc still owns a slew of other name brand properties, including the New York Daily News and the Chicago Tribune.
“I want to thank everyone who worked so hard over the last two years creating great journalism, strengthening the company’s financial position and delivering significant value for shareholders,” said Ferro. “I am confident that under the leadership of Justin and the rest of the board and management team tronc will continue to deliver value for investors while executing the plan for digital transformation.”
Despite the glowing words, Ferro’s chairmanship was not without controversy. In addition to making money for Tronc, the executive was not shy about using the brand to line his own pockets.
Just months before he stepped down, news emerged that Tronc had awarded a three year $15 million contract to Merrick Media “to provide certain management expertise and technical services.”
Merrick Media is owned by Ferro.
While leading Tronc, Ferro also spent $4.6 million of company money on private travel.