NEW YORK — The Tribune Co. abruptly announced Tuesday that Los Angeles Times publisher John Puerner is departing for a “self-imposed career break” after a five-year run at the helm of the daily.
Taking Puerner’s place will be L.A. Times exec VP-general manager Jeff Johnson.
While Puerner, 53, will remain at the paper until May 31, Johnson will immediately assume many of his responsibilities, according to a staff memo dispatched by Tribune Publishing prexy Scott Smith.
Smith commended Puerner’s tenure, saying the publisher advanced editorial quality while at the same time managing costs and improving overall efficiency.
But Puerner’s unexpected exit signaled Tribune’s continued frustration over circulation and advertising declines at the L.A. Times.
Neither Smith nor Puerner made any mention of a possible new job for Puerner elsewhere within Tribune, which owns a number of other newspapers, including the Chicago Tribune and Newsday.
In his own note to employees, Puerner said his exit will end a 26-year career at Tribune.
“I don’t have any specific plans for the future, other than to spend the summer with my family supporting endeavors important to them, which have taken a back seat to my career,” Puerner said in an internal note to all staffers.
Insiders say Tribune is unhappy that the L.A. Times has been unable to boost profits and help Tribune’s overall stock, which has been in a perpetual slump.
Tribune has applied repeated pressure on the newspaper to reduce editorial costs, including through voluntary and involuntary staff reductions.
At the same time, the newspaper won five Pulitzer Prizes last year.
Both Puerner and Johnson were part of the new management team that arrived in L.A. after Tribune bought the paper from Times Mirror.