BIG TRIAL: The current Inky publisher, Bob Hall, is a part-timer who was supposed to step down in August. Rumors began circulating that [former owner Brian] Tierney would return as Hall’s replacement. Against this backdrop one faction in the Inky ownership dispute, Lewis Katz and H.F. “Gerry” Lenfest were asked two weeks ago during a meeting with the leadership of the Newspaper Guild Of Greater Philadelphia if the Tierney rumors were true. According to Bill Ross, the Guild’s executive director, Lenfest responded, what would be so bad about that? […]
When Lenfest asked the Newspaper Guild what would be so bad about Tierney coming back as publisher, Ross, the Guild’s executive director, asked, are you aware of our history? Lenfest, who made his fortune in cable TV, said he was unaware. So Ross filled him in. “Guild members see Brian Tierney as the face that bankrupted the company by overpaying for the newspapers,” Ross explained.
In 2006, Tierney led a group of investors that purchased the Inky, Daily News and the philly.com website for the inflated price of $515 million. Tierney became CEO of the new ownership group, Philadelphia Media Holdings. By 2009, Philadelphia Media Holdings was bankrupt. In 2010, the two papers and the website was auctioned for $139 million to a bunch of the company’s creditors. In 2012, Interstate General Media [IGM] bought the two papers and philly.com for $55 million, a fraction of what the Tierney group paid.
Ross said he told Lenfest how Tierney gave himself and two other managers Christmas bonuses that amounted to $600,000, at the same time he was asking all the unions, including the Guild, to give up $25-a-week raises. The Guild raises amounted to $600,000, Ross said. Tierney also “pulled out of the Guild pension plan,” Ross said. Tierney subsequently used the bankruptcy filing as the reason for not paying a $50 million liability due, leaving “a gaping hole” in the Guild pension plan, Ross said.
“I was somewhat surprised that the new owners would reach out to him [Tierney] in any fashion or employ him in any capacity or pay him one dollar,” Ross said. “But to hear that he’s dealing with advertisers and telling some of our members who still despise him that the new owners need his help, it’s disheartening.” According to a source close to the situation, Tierney was brought in to do national ad sales. His compensation of $25,000 a month was supposed to be offset by the advertising revenues generated. But it hasn’t worked out that way. “He has underperformed,” the source said. MORE