Austin Beutner reportedly pushed out as publisher of LA Times, San Diego Union-Tribune
Beutner was an unusual choice for the position of publisher, having come from the world of private equity, was a co-founder of Evercore Partners
Politico’s Ken Doctor today is reporting that Austin Beutner, who runs the California News Group as publisher of both the Los Angeles Times and the recently acquired San Diego Union-Tribune, will be replaced. Doctor calls it a firing that will be announced as a resignation. Doctor has the connections inside the newspaper industry, so one does not doubt his report.
The firing has not exactly been handled well. As of this morning, there is nothing on the Times website about the firing, and the Chicago Tribune’s own media reporter, looks to be working off the Politico Media story. (They’ve come to work this morning in LA and here is their story – though there is still no comment from corporate on the firing.)
Doctor calls Beutner one of “industry’s most innovative leaders,” though why is a bit of a mystery (my guess, he was granted an interview a few months ago).
Beutner was brought on board shortly after Tribune Publishing was spun out of the Tribune Company. The new publisher of the Times was the co-founder of Evercore Partners, having previously been a partner at Blackstone Group. The appointment of the billionaire only made sense in terms of M&A and politics. Beutner was First Deputy Mayor of LA in 2011 and ran unsuccessfully for mayor in 2012, and is widely seen as someone with political ambitions within the Democratic Party. (The Tribune, on the other hand, is a Republican institution, only twice endorsing a Democratic candidate for President – both times Barack Obama.)
I’ll leave it to others to speculate further on why Beutner is being dumped, but Tribune’s history in Southern California is not a good one. Tribune bought into the market in 1971 when it acquired the Van Nuys News and Valley Green Sheet. Tribune tried to expand the reach of the paper and eventually changed its name to the Daily News. But Tribune sold the paper to Jack Kent Cooke, known to many as the former owner of the Washington Redskins and Los Angles Lakers. (When Cooke died the paper was sold to Dean Singleton’s MediaNews Group.) Maybe Tribune made money on its deal, but those who were in the newspaper market in those days never thought the Tribune Company got the LA market (neither did Hearst, who closed its Herald Examiner in 1989).
Today, the combination of the LA Times and San Diego Union-Tribune makes the group the most important in Tribune Publishing, despite the recent acquisitions of suburban papers around Chicagoland. In fact, should Tribune Publishing be sold off to a private equity firm some time in the future, it would not be surprising to see the new company shift the corporate headquarters to the west coast.