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Tribune Publishing’s new CEO cuts executives in bloodbath

Even the ax men are getting axed at Tribune Publishing.

The struggling newspaper giant’s new boss has unleashed a bloodbath in the executive ranks — and casualties include a former New York Daily News publisher who himself had halved the paper’s staff in a brutal, one-day bloodbath in 2018, The Post has learned.

Former financial chief Terry Jimenez — who was promoted on Monday to replace Tim Knight as chief executive of the owner of papers including the Daily News, the Chicago Tribune and the Baltimore Sun — has swiftly executed a series of cuts that wiped out at least a half-dozen executives with the rank of vice president or higher, sources close to the company said.

Among the highest-ranking executives to get fired was Grant Whitmore, the chief digital operations officer and former publisher of the Daily News. He did not return calls or emails.

Whitmore had been the executive charged with carrying out Knight’s directive to chop half of the editorial staff in a brutal, one-day bloodbath in July 2018. Only 40 full-time editorial staffers remained after those cuts. Tribune had purchased the money-losing Daily News for only $1 in 2017 and assumed its pension liabilities.

The cuts, which follow an all-hands meeting in Chicago earlier this week, have also claimed 13-year veteran Susan Jacobs, the SVP of sales and strategy; Mark Rose, VP of strategy marketing; Robin Gruen, VP of creative and strategy; and Chris Duplex, VP of business optimization.

The cuts are not part of the voluntary buyouts that Tribune announced for staffers with at least eight years of experience on Jan. 13. Non-union staffers had already exited on Jan. 31. The deadline to apply for staffers who are members of the News Guild was Monday. The last day for most of those staffers will be Friday.

There is no official tally on how many are exiting yet as part of that offer, but insiders are saying that up to 10 percent of the reporters in some newsrooms will take buyouts.

The Chicago Tribune is the flagship. The other papers in the portfolio include the Baltimore Sun, Capitol Gazette, Hartford Courant, Orlando Sentinel, South Florida’s Sun-Sentinel, Virginia’s Daily Press and the Virginian-Pilot.

The Morning Call’s editor-in-chief for the past 18 months, Terry Rang, announced on Jan. 30 that she is exiting as well.

At the Chicago Tribune, renowned music critic Greg Kot said he is leaving after a 40-year career. Former foreign correspondent Dawn Rhodes is also exiting after 10 years.

The cuts are believed to be the result of pressure from Alden Global Management, the hedge fund headed by Heath Freeman that emerged as Tribune’s single largest shareholder in November with 32 percent of the common stock.

Knight had unveiled the voluntary buyouts on Jan. 13 and sources said he was resisting the push to make deeper cuts. He is exiting at the end of the month.

Alden placed two non-media executives on the board of directors in early December although they pledged to not buy any more stock until after June 30, 2020.

Alden is famous for deep cuts to newsrooms in papers it owns through its Digital First Media/Media News Group holdings, which include the Denver Post, the Boston Herald, the San Jose Mercury News and the Orange County Register. Often it buys the paper, cuts staff and sells the real estate holdings, prompting some to label it a “strip miner” of local newspapers.

CEO Jimenez and a Tribune company spokesman did not return calls seeking comment on the executive axings or the number of the voluntary buyouts.

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