Tribune Publishing, parent of The Baltimore Sun, names new CEO as three executives depart

Tribune Publishing CEO Justin Dearborn has stepped down after nearly three years at the helm of the Chicago-based newspaper company that owns The Baltimore Sun, the company announced Thursday.

Longtime Chicago newspaper executive Tim Knight was named CEO, effective immediately. Knight, who had served as president of the company, also will join the Tribune Publishing board.


Board member David Dreier, a former U.S. congressman, has been named chairman of Tribune Publishing, replacing Dearborn.

The company also announced the departures Thursday of Ross Levinsohn and Mickie Rosen, who served as CEO and president, respectively, of Tribune Interactive, the digital arm of Tribune Publishing.

The executive moves come as Tribune Publishing is actively engaged in a formal sale process. In December, the company terminated negotiations to sell the newspaper chain to the California-based McClatchy Co.

New York-based investment firm Donerail and Dallas-based newspaper group Aim Media are working on a joint bid to buy Tribune Publishing, according to multiple sources familiar with negotiations.

Dearborn, 49, joined Tribune Publishing as CEO in February 2016, three weeks after his longtime business associate, Michael Ferro, became the company’s largest shareholder and non-executive chairman. Ferro stepped down from the board last year. Dearborn had been CEO of Merge Healthcare, a Ferro-controlled medical technology company that was acquired by IBM in 2015.

A longtime newspaper industry executive, Knight, 53, previously served as CEO of Wrapports, the Ferro-led, former ownership group of the Chicago Sun-Times.

Knight, an attorney, began his media career with the Chicago Tribune’s legal department in 1996 and rose through the executive ranks as one of the developers of the company’s online classified strategy. He later was named publisher of Newsday, then owned by Tribune.

He rejoined Tribune Publishing, formerly known as Tronc, in February 2017, as president of digital content, and he was named president of the company in October of that year.

“We are confident that we have the right assets, people and strategy to continue to transform our business while investing in world-class journalism,” Knight said in a statement. “We also believe there are attractive consolidation opportunities within the media industry that will enable us to accelerate our strategy.”

In addition to The Sun, Tribune Publishing also owns the Hartford Courant; Orlando Sentinel; the New York Daily News; the Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Md.; The Morning Call in Allentown, Pa.; the Daily Press in Newport News, Va.; and The Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk, Va. The company reverted to its legacy name in October.