Is Brian Tierney Coming Back to the Inquirer?

Not if rank-and-file journalists have anything to do with it.

At the Philadelphia Inquirer, it seems, everything old will eventually become new again. Thus we have Ralph Cipriano’s report that some members of the newspaper’s ownership group want to bring back Brian Tierney. You remember him, right? The former PR magnate who steered the Inky and Daily News into bankruptcy a few years back? That guy?

There are a lot of moving parts to Cipriano’s reporting. But the gist of it is that Lewis Katz favored Tierney’s return and that George Norcross … did not. Bill Ross, the head of the newspaper guild—the union representing journos at the two newspapers—reportedly had a blunt conversation with Katz and co-owner Gerry Lenfest about Tierney’s unacceptability.

“Guild members see Brian Tierney as the face that bankrupted the company by overpaying for the newspapers,” Ross explained.

In 2006, Tierney led a group of investors that purchased the Inky, Daily News and the website for the inflated price of $515 million. Tierney became CEO of the new ownership group, Philadelphia Media Holdings. By 2009, Philadelphia Media Holdings was bankrupt. In 2010, the two papers and the website sold for $139 million at an auction to a bunch of the company’s creditors. In 2012, Interstate General Media [IGM] bought the two papers and for $55 million, a fraction of what the Tierney group paid.

Ross said he told Lenfest how Tierney gave himself and two other managers Christmas bonuses that amounted to $600,000, at the same time he was asking all the unions, including the Guild, to give up $25-a-week raises that they were due. The Guild raises amounted to $600,000, Ross said.

There’s other stuff, including, Cipriano says, the fact that Tierney has returned quietly to the Inky already on a $25,000-a-month gig in national advertising. Which apparently isn’t generating the money it should. In any case, the owners are apparently now too busy suing each other over Bill Marimow’s future to care about Tierney at the moment. Just another messed-up day in the messed-up life of Philly’s most-important journalistic institution.