NEW YORK – A former chairman of the Tronc company who stepped down amid allegations of sexual misconduct is selling all of his stock for about $228 million.
Michael Ferro’s company Merrick Media listed the sale in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission on Friday.
The company lists the buyer as McCormick Media LLC, a Chicago-based corporation managed by Sargent McCormick. McCormick is a descendent of Chicago Tribune publisher Robert McCormick. McCormick Media bought almost 9.1 million shares for $23 a share to become Tronc’s largest shareholder.
The stock has traded between $10.80 and $24.74 in the past year and closed at $17.15 Friday.
Formerly Tribune Co., Tronc operates newspapers including the Chicago Tribune, New York Daily News and The Baltimore Sun. Ferro bought a stake in the company in 2016. During his time as chairman, the company bought the Daily News, tried and failed to buy the Chicago Sun-Times, and fended off a buyout attempt from USA Today publisher Gannett.
The company sold the Los Angeles Times last month after the paper’s staff voted to unionize for the first time in its 136-year history. Staffers said they were frustrated that Tronc signed a contract with a consulting company owned by Ferro that was worth $5 million per year at a time staff benefits were being cut.
At the same time, it was announced that Times CEO Ross Levinsohn would go on unpaid leave after revelations that he was a defendant in two sexual-harassment lawsuits stemming from alleged incidents earlier in his career. Tronc sold the Times and other papers to Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong for $500 million, along with $90 million in pension benefits.
Ferro retired as Tronc’s chairman last month. Just hours after his announcement, Fortune magazine reported allegations by two women that Ferro made unwanted sexual advances during 2013 and 2016, before he became chairman. Fortune said Ferro declined to comment. The company said it was not aware of any claims filed against him.
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