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Chicago tech billionaire Michael Ferro, the largest shareholder of Tronc (owners of the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune and, most recently, the New York Daily News) has entered into an agreement with Tribune Publishing Co. to receive a payout of $5M in the first quarters of 2018, 2019 and 2020 as a consultant through his Merrick Ventures LLC. He is, in essence, paying himself $15 million.
This comes after his publishing concerns have outsourced jobs and laid off hundreds of employees. Ferro took over the floundering Daily News from previous owner Mortimer Zuckerman in September. Just after Thanksgiving, Tronc swung the scythe through the Daily News‘ advertising, finance and IT departments. The $5M a year is akin to covering about 65 to 70 journalist jobs, according to one expert.
An SEC filing dated December 20 states:
On December 20, 2017, Tribune Publishing Company, LLC (“TPC”), a subsidiary of tronc, Inc. (the “Company”) … entered into a Consulting Agreement (the “Agreement”) with Merrick Ventures LLC (“Merrick Ventures”) and, solely for certain sections thereof, Michael W. Ferro, Jr. and Merrick Media, LLC (“Merrick Media”). Mr. Ferro is (1) Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Merrick Ventures and (2) the manager of Merrick Venture Management, LLC which is the sole manager of Merrick Media. The Agreement provides for the engagement of Merrick Ventures on a non-exclusive basis to provide certain management expertise and technical services for an annual fee of $5 million in cash, payable in advance on the first business day of each calendar year.
See the filing here.
Ferro, who wants to be a media mogul, was (at one time) the biggest investor/owner of the fierce Tribune competitor Chicago Sun-Times. He currently is Tronc’s largest shareholder, with about a 28 percent stake in the company. The new agreement does not provide details of what Merrick Ventures’ consulting duties will be. It does, however, say that Tronc will no longer be responsible for Ferro’s private jet. Those bills are to go directly to Merrick.
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