Dean Singleton, Merc’s Owner, Steps Down

Dean Singleton announced yesterday that he is stepping down as CEO of MediaNews Group—the Denver based company that owns the San Jose Mercury News along with most of the newspapers in the Bay Area.

Amid speculation that the move was forced on him by a New York hedge fund that controls the company, Singleton insisted that he wants to focus on strategic planning and leave day-to-day management behind. He admitted that poor health influenced his decision—Singleton has multiple sclerosis and uses a wheelchair.

Jody Lodovic, Singleton’s long-time right-hand man, also resigned his position as president yesterday, and gave up his seat on the company’s board of directors. Reports suggest Lodovic quit after being told that MediaNews would be conducting a national search for a new CEO. It has been considered common knowlege for some time that Lodovic would succeed Singleton as CEO.

MediaNews’ parent company, Affiliated Media, declared bankruptcy last January, and controlling equity was issued to a group of creditors led by Bank of America Corp. Much of that equity has since passed to Alden Global Capitol, a New York-based hedge fund. It was announced yesterday that two seats on the MediaNews Board of Directors will be turned over to Alden Global.

MediaNews bought the Mercury News on August 2006 from McClatchy Corp., five months after McClatchy’s purchase of Knight-Ridder. Singleton borrowed most of the money required for the purchase. The resulting debt obligations, along with the decreasing advertising revenues, hurt the newspaper financially: under Singleton the newspaper decimated its staff and page counts while consolidating operations with its other Bay Area publications.

In addition to the Mercury News, Media News owns the Oakland Tribune, Contra Costa Times, Marin Independent Journal, Santa Cruz Sentinel and the Monterey County Herald, as well as the Silicon Valley Community Newspapers group of weeklies.

Read Dean Singleton’s letter to MediaNews personnel here.

12 Comments

  1. Could change finally be afoot at the Murky News?  Let’s all hope for substantial reform, as if the bankruptcy wasn’t writing on the wall…

  2. “Dean Singleton … built a company of great size and uneven journalism, from great to deeply mediocre. He made digital investments and then dismantled his central digital staff last year. He fought the spectre of bankruptcy hard, cutting deeply into the staffs of his newspapers. In the Bay Area, where I live, the result is palpable. Such papers as the Mercury News, the Contra Costa Times and the Santa Cruz Sentinel are shadows of their former selves; those shadows will soon be tested…”

    From “Newsonomics,” the blog of news industry analyst and Knight Ridder veteran Ken Doctor: “The Demise of Lean Dean Singleton and the Rise of Private Equity.”

    Read more on Newsonomics: http://bit.ly/KenDoctorOnDeanSingleton

    • Eric,
      My compliments to the Metro for cleaning up its act. In the past year or so, you guys have really tried to report more accurate information that the Merc has refused to. Bravo.

  3. One good thing about Singleton was his commitment to fair-mindedness in naming and labeling. When bizarre slurs (gringo, goober, wasp, white flight, white boy, lily-white, cracker, redneck, etc.) used by the Mercury News were brought to his attention in June 2008, the level of abusive labeling by the Merc of the diverse white San Joseans was drastically reduced.

    Some friends of mine ran a full-page ad in Metro in its June 11-17, 2008, issue.  An electronic version is preserved at:

    http://www.resistingdefamation.org/sub/metro.asp

    We took 18 copies of Metro that week, ripped out the ad, and mailed them with no comment to the top 18 names at the MediaNews Group in Colorado.  One week later, the gratuitous and over-the-top insults to the diverse white San Joseans ended at the Merc, so it tells us that Singleton was opposed to the bizarre use of slurs and negative stereotypes embraced by the Mercury News at least since 1990.

    The paper still loves to focus on hate crimes committed by white delinquents, and to cover up hate crimes committed by other delinquents, but the level of hate speech in articles, op-eds, captions, and headlines has been tremendously reduced since June 2008.

    Decent-minded people who oppose slurs and negative stereotypes regret the departure of Singleton from the office of CEO.

  4. The only acceptable change starts with the locks on the doors. That rag’s legacy is one of shoddy work and outright fabrication. It is a farse that panders to the left-wing “cause of the moment” whether it is the CIA causing the crack epidemic, the plight of Mexican Nationals entering and remaining in this country illegally, or deliberate distortions and misrepresentations meant to undermine the credibility of law enforcement and the courts.  The bell warning of the demise of this tabloid has been ringing for too long.
    Bye bye Singleton!

    • The CIA did traffic the crack cocaine, and Gary Webb has been vindicated by history. But I do agree with the rest of your comment, the Merc is just another in the long list of liberal, leftist newspapers. When they finally fold, no one will remember anything significant about them – other than Gary Webb.

  5. Mercury evolved into a increasingly unethical biased lousy poor quality newspaper with

    1) reprint of hours or days later national wire service news then available online, TV and radio broadcasts,

    2) reprinted as fresh local news old news stories from other regional Media News papers and free community news articles

    3) printing unethical biased local news and investigative reports to further their political agenda

    4) Media News directive to not print any negative stories or opinions about their advertisers ( developers, real estate, corporations, SJ city government etc ) undercut little remaining   ethical journalism

    5) advertising revenue that supported years of poor journalism and biased sloppy reporting evaporated as advertisers and readers switched eBay, Craig’s List, Google, and multimedia web sites

    Mercury over last 2 decades became increasing out of touch with

    1) changing diverse highly educated Silicon Valley readership desire for individually customizable better online multi-media news and information choices for national and local TV / Radio news, search engines, videos, consumer reviews, opinion blogs, entertainment, ecommerce, etc

    2) readers desire to obtain news and information without increasingly unacceptable Mercury’s biased spin on news and opinions to push their out of touch political agendas

    If Mercury closed tomorrow, very few would miss it because it made itself irrelevant to it’s declining readership

  6. Well, one of the ways to cut expenses at the Merc is to stop reporting actual news and rely on readers to get their real news from—oh, say—Bloomberg News, or Fox News, or—horrors—icky talk radio.

    If your idea of “news” is fluffy and sappy daily updates on the recovery of Congresswoman “Gabby” Gabriel, who was shot by an extremist nut USING A GUN who may have been pushed over the edge by harshly divisive rhetoric encouraged by Sarah Palin, well, the Merc is YOUR Newspaper.

    But, if you would like to be informed that the Obama administration has been found to be in contempt of court by a federal judge, well, you’re on your own.  This is news that is just to edgy and partisan for the Merc to report.

  7. Everyone who has worked in the industry the past 25 years knows the pathetic dean singleton. A survivor of the fittest? Well bankruptcy and his empire crumbled,
    as he crumbled every newspaper acquired, destroyed many people and their families who worked at the papers…farmed his ad art out to India,destroyed any Union that got in his way. I worked for the first paper in CA Singleton purchased…the Hayward Daily Review. After one month our 86 tear old publisher who sold cried, “saying what have I done to my people and newspaper”. Floyd Sparks was a great publisher. his heart was broken to his grave. It’s only befitting that Singleton had some big hedge fund sharks kick his ass.

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