Tronc's Latest Financials Likely to Pressure Chairman Michael Ferro to Sell

Fresh off the collapse of a potential sale to Gannett (GCI) , the newspaper publisher Tronc (TRNC) said its third-quarter revenue declined as advertising sales dropped amid an industry wide transition by marketers to digital platforms and away from print publications.

Tronc, known as Tribune Publishing until its name was changed in May, reported a net loss per share of 29 cents compared to a 33 cent per share loss for the same period a year ago. Advertising revenue tumbled 11% to $201.8 million while the publisher's adjusted net income tallied a mere $8 million.

Revenue of $378.2 million fell short of the $381.5 million average of two analysts as compiled by Bloomberg. 

Tronc's third-quarter results were issued hours after Gannett dropped its $683 million bid to acquire a media company that includes The Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune and other major U.S. daily newspapers. The collapse of the deal, combined with Tronc's modest earnings results, are likely to heighten pressure on Chairman Michael Ferro to sell the company.

Tronc CEO Justin Dearborn nonetheless used the company's earnings conference call to charge that Gannett "unilaterally" pulled out of a sale that he said the two companies were prepared to sign on Oct. 26. Dearborn said Gannett had a variety of financing alternatives and could have executed the deal.

"We were at the finish line on that as of last week," Dearborn said on an investor conference call. 

Dearborn also disputed a story in The Wall Street Journal story entitled Tronc Got Too Greedy, that argued that Tronc should have accepted Gannett's $15 offer back in May. "The idea that we became greedy is completely false," he said.

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