Another day, another idea from Michael Ferro. Credit: tronc, Inc.

Tribune Publishing just changed its name! The company will now be known as tronc, Inc. (That’s lowercase t though uppercase I.) 


Because Tribune Publishing no longer simply puts out newspapers. It is now, to quote the corporate news release, “a content curation and monetization company focused on creating and distributing premium, verified content across all channels.”

CEO Michael Ferro explained:

“Our industry requires an innovative approach and a fundamentally different way of operating. Our transformation strategy—which has attracted over $114 million in growth capital—is focused on leveraging artificial intelligence and machine learning to improve the user experience and better monetize our world-class content in order to deliver personalized content to our 60 million monthly users and drive value for all of our stakeholders. Our rebranding to tronc represents the manner in which we will pool our technology and content resources to execute on our strategy.”

Nothing apparently says innovation like a lowercase name. If we see it repeatedly these days it’s because of its unfailing originality.  

If Ferro’s explanation strikes you as incomprehensible—and maybe it doesn’t—you should wonder what Tribune Publishing shareholders think. The Tribune news release was the company’s second big development reported Thursday.

The first came from Gannett, which is trying to take over Tribune by coercing Ferro and the board to acquiesce to Gannett’s offer to buy a controlling interest in the company at $15 a share. Its wingman in this campaign has been Oaktree Capital, the third-biggest shareholder, which has made it clear it has no faith in Ferro’s administrative competence.

Gannett let us know that by its reckoning, a majority of the independent shares just voted at the company’s annual meeting had failed to support Ferro, CEO Justin Dearborn, and three other of the company’s eight official nominees for the board of directors. A near majority—49 percent—failed to support any of them.

Gannett did acknowledge that due to new corporate rules all eight would be joining the board regardless. And of course the independent shares don’t take into account Ferro’s—he’s the largest single shareholder. In all, the vote must have disappointed Gannett, which campaigned hard for shareholders to send management a loud, clear message that it wanted negotiations with Gannett to open.

Vice president Michael Dickerson said afterward that Gannett “is reviewing whether to proceed with its acquisition offer.” 

So maybe Ferro has weathered the storm. Or maybe some of the loyal shareholders, who are now trying to digest the change of name to tronc (effective June 20, when the company shifts from the New York Stock Exchange to Nasdaq), and Ferro’s giddy justification for it, are asking themselves what in God’s name they’ve just done.