April 18, 2016 Last Updated 1:01 pm

Tribune Publishing buys Splash magazine from the Sun-Times

The former editor of Splash, Susanna Homan, had already resigned and moved to Tribune to be editor/publisher of the Tribune-owned Chicago magazine

Tribune Publishing has a newish boss, Michael Ferro, who used to be the big wig at the Sun-Times. While at the Sun-Times, Ferro launched Splash magazine. Now, Robert Feder, who covers local media in Chicago, reports that Ferro’s Tribune Publishing has just bought Splash magazine from the Sun-Times.

Adobe Photoshop PDFWhether Tribune Publishing will actually continue to publish the magazine is not known. The editor of Splash, Susanna Homan, resigned last month to become the publisher and editor of Chicago magazine – which is published by, you guessed it, Tribune Publishing. (Chicago’s editor, Elizabeth Fenner, was fired at the same time, with the publisher and editor jobs unified into one position, something Tribune Publishing is doing across its portfolio.)

What exactly Tribune Publishing has bought, therefore, is a little cloudy. Homan will now supposedly be publisher and editor of both publications. But that might be hard as Splash had been an insert into the Sunday edition of the Sun-Times. Where does it live now? As a Sunday insert into the Chicago Tribune?

The whole publishing environment in Chicago is a bit cloudy, in fact. Michael Ferro came in and invested $44.4 million in Tribune Publishing, originally thought to be an investment that would allow Tribune Publishing to buy the Orange County Register in the Freedom Communications auction. Ferro had been part of the investment team that founded and ran Wrapports LLC, the publisher of cross-town rival the Sun-Times.

Ferro exited his role at Wrapports, but soon Jack Grffin was ousted as CEO at Tribune Publishing and Ferro associate Justin C. Dearborn brought in as chief executive. Tribune Publishing went on to win the Freedom Communications auction, but then had to bow out when the Justice Department signaled that it would put the kibosh on the deal. That handed the prized O.C. Register to Digital First Media, which also owns Southern California newspaper properties, but really couldn’t afford to actually win the prize, having gone through its own bankruptcy episodes.

Tribune Publishing already has a history of buying properties from Wrapports. It picked up the suburban chain owned by Wrapports a while back, in exchange for a new printing contract with the Chicago Tribune. Right now the Sun-Times looks like a marathon runner being helped past the finish line by a big competitor. But who will be there to help debt burdened Tribune Publishing cross the line in the future.

Tribune Publishing reports Q1 earnings on May 4. Pass the popcorn.

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