Brian Tierney's foolish raise

The downfall of wannabe media tycoon Brian P. Tierney is a sight to see.

Two months before his company, which controls Philadelphia's dominant newspapers, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, Tierney decided he deserved a 40% raise. At the same time, he asked his unionized workforce to give up a $25 a week raise. His increase of $232,000 would have employed about three journalists.

Needless to say, employees were angry. Creditors, who had been waiting for Philadelphia Newspapers LLC to make payments on its debt since last year, were furious.

"This is not a matter that is just about debt," said lawyer Andrew Kassner, who represents Citizens Bank and other senior lenders, in a court hearing yesterday, according to the Associated Press.

After at first defending the payout, Tierney decided to give back the raise. Creditors, though, are not going to stand for these shenanigans and may try to oust Tierney and his management team.

Tierney, who led a group that purchased Philadelphia's dominant newspapers for $526 million in 2006, strutted into the art-deco headquarters that houses the Philadelphia Inquirer, Daily News, and with big ideas. Through shear force of will, Tierney promised to turn around the papers financially and to protect them journalistically.

Philadelphia Newspapers, though, sputtered along, just like larger publishers such as the Tribune Co. and the New York Times Co. (NYT), as readers and advertisers fled print for online media. Tierney was further hurt by financial problems of big advertiser Boscov's, a local retail chain, even as readers flocked to the paper last year because of the hotly contested Pennsylvania primary and the Phillies World Series victory.

Though Tierney cannot be blamed for all of the ills affecting newspaper publishers, he obviously thought he could solve them himself. Maybe he let his desire to be a big shot in Philadelphia cloud his business judgment. I find it hard to believe that not one of his advisers mentioned to him that taking a gigantic raise before filing for bankruptcy would look bad. A PR man should have known better.

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