Publisher Brian Tierney's reign over The Philadelphia Inquirer and the Philadelphia Daily News ended today with the auction of the newspapers' bankrupt corporate parent, Philadelphia Media Holdings L.L.C.
Creditors took control of the company after placing the winning bid of $139 million in the auction conducted by a New York law firm. A group of local investors backing Tierney -- including billionaire Ronald Perelman and his father, Raymond -- had submitted a losing bid of about $129 million, according to the Inquirer. Canadian firm Stern Partners Inc. also tendered a bid, although media reports didn't indicate its value.
"I am extremely proud of the results of today's auction," says Tierney, who once owned Philadelphia's top advertising and public relations firm, in a statement. "I am also proud that I have preserved the jobs of our 4,500 employees and the commitment that the new owners have preserved as well."
In an interview with the Inquirer, he was less restrained: "We didn't make it. I think I'll go home tonight and sleep like a baby, which means I'll wake up every hour crying."
Good Journalism, Bad Luck
Tierney wanted to be the top media dog in Philadelphia in the worst way. In 2006, he lead a group of investors that acquired the Inquirer and the Daily News for $515 million and vowed to restore the newspapers back to their Pulitzer-winning glory.
Although local journalists were leery of Tierney's past as a PR man, he largely kept his promise not to interfere in editorial decisions -- although The Inquirer did raise some eyebrows when it published its 2008 endorsement of Barack Obama alongside the publisher's "anonymous" dissenting opinion.
This year, the Daily News tabloid was awarded journalism's highest honor for its expose of a police narcotics squad's questionable tactics. The Inquirer also won kudos for its reporting on corruption in Philadelphia. But none of this solid journalism helped Tierney.
Everything that could go wrong for the entrepreneur did. Soon after buying the papers, the business model for big-city dailies collapsed as readers began getting their news online, largely for free, and advertising revenue plunged. His company filed for bankruptcy last year, and now, he's lost the company.
While it's clear the auction has ended an era for the Philadelphia papers, their next chaper -- headed by the new owners -- is still blurry and their future remains as uncertain as ever.
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