Tim Knight, an attorney-turned-publishing executive, is exiting the Chicago Sun-Times to oversee the Newhouse-owned Northeast Ohio Media Group, which includes Cleveland.com and provides significant ad and marketing services to the Cleveland Plain Dealer.
Knight has been CEO of Wrapports LLC, which owns the struggling Chicago Sun-Times and Chicago Reader, the city’s alternative weekly. He was a longtime staffer and executive at Tribune Co. and served as publisher of Newsday.
The Sun-Times is challenged, like many other dailies, but even more hard-pressed in a two-paper market with the Chicago Tribune the dominant force. There have been many cutbacks during Knight’s tenure, and the newsroom staff is now below 100.
The majority owner of Wrapports Michael Ferro, a local high-tech executive who has clearly struggled to turn around the paper during difficult times. In April, in an unpublicized action, he took his name off the paper’s masthead, as well as that of his company, Wrapports.
Several sources indicated at the time that he was uncomfortable with the double-edged sword of the paper’s high profile; namely in the attention it brought him, which he on one level he is said to have very much liked, but the criticism it also brought, including from friends, which he did not.
The move clearly didn’t deter his primary focus, reviving a health tech company, that he recently sold to IBM for $1 billion. He owned 24 percent of that firm.
Knight was hired after a group including Ferrobought the Sun-Times in 2011 for about $20 million. The purchase of the Chicago Reader came later, as did the sale of its chain of suburban newspapers to the now-renamed Tribune Publishing.
He’s overseen several major projects, including the attempt to create a network of local online news sites. That and several other digital startups have also struggled.
Knight will succeed Andrea Hogben, who is leaving the company.
“I am honored to join NEOMG and work with their talented team of journalists and sales and marketing professionals,” Knight said in a press release. “I look forward to building upon Andrea’s success and growing our audience and expanding our business. The opportunities for growth here, especially in the digital arena, are tremendous.”
“Tim is a great leader and a proven entrepreneur,” said Randy Siegel, President of Advance Local, which oversees NEOMG. “I’ve known him for a long time and have tremendous respect for his accomplishments and abilities.”
His Ohio challenges will include dealing with what has been at times a fractious relationship between the unionized staff at the Plain Dealer and a distinctly separate non-union online operation.