Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Why it's hard to believe CEO of Philadelphia papers when it comes to what would be best for their survival

I don't know which ownership group would be best for the future of the bankrupt Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News, but I find it hard to understand why the current CEO gets cut so much slack.

The papers' biggest creditors want to dump current management, according to a story in the Daily News.

I remember vividly in 2006 when new CEO Brian Tierney said there would be no layoffs at the troubled papers. I could not believe what I was hearing. I knew then that he was out of touch with what was happening in the industry and missing a key opportunity to speak the truth. Clearly it wasn't just the unions who weren't facing reality in Philadelphia. Of course his view had to change. And it did. But his promise made him look naive from the start.

Then, just before the papers totally tanked, in another example of bad judgment recounted in a solid Sunday Magazine article in The New York Times, Tierney "accepted a pay raise and a $350,000 bonus right before the bankruptcy filing — and after employees agreed to give up their own paltry union raises."

Look, I've seen Tierney in action and I welcome his passion for newspapers and for the survival of the two in Philadelphia. I want to see him or any other owner succeed. But I've also been on the inside of a troubled newspaper operation and it's impossible to believe that when he got his pay raise and bonus he, and others involved, didn't know how serious his company's financial problems were.

If you were a shareholder, would you want somebody who took a pay raise when his operation was plunging under water running the company? How could you trust that he would put the best interest of the company over his own?

I don't know. That's why I wouldn't get too sentimental about which ownership group takes over the papers.

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