On March 19, 2018, Michael W. Ferro and Tronc, the parent company of the Chicago Tribune and newspapers in nine other cities, announced that Michael would be retiring from the company, leaving it in the hands of CEO Justin Dearborn. As the newly named Chairman, Dearborn was quick to point out the immense success and value Michael W. Ferro brought to the company. He noted in the press release that prior to Michael being elected Chairman of Tronc in 2016, the company only had a market capitalization of $200 million and $41 million of cash on hand. It also had $500 million of debt and pension liability.
After Michael W. Ferro was elected, things quickly changed as Michael worked to bring new energy to Tronc that would enable it to compete in a new era of news and publishing. Making his fortune in tech, Mr. Ferro was a big proponent of incorporating AI and other technology whenever there was an opening to help journalists and other staff members do their jobs more effectively. The numbers speak for themselves.
In the short time Michael W. Ferro was Chairman of Tronc, he helped the company achieve more than 300% improvement in market capitalization, a 400% improvement in cash on hand at the end of 2017, and significantly reduced debt. In addition to that, Michael W. Ferro was a major part of the California News Group transaction, which engineered $500 million in cash plus the assumption of $90 million in pension obligations. The transaction put the media company in its strongest financial position in more than a decade.
Michael W. Ferro only had kind words for the company and was happy he was able to arrange his retirement with Tronc’s board members and management team in connection with the closing of the landmark California News Group transaction. In the press release, Ferro thanked everyone who “worked so hard over the last two years creating great journalism, strengthening the company’s financial position and delivering significant value for shareholders.”
Mr. Ferro sold his more than 9 million shares for $23 per share, or $208.6 million, to McCormick Media in April. Prior to the sale, Michael W. Ferro was the largest shareholder of Tronc, owning more than 25% of the company.