Top Freedom Executives Resign

Freedom Communications’ experimental attempt to revitalize the newspaper industry has come to an unsuccessful end. Freedom bosses Aaron Kushner and Eric Spitz will resign their executive positions.

The news was first reported by the Orange County Register, which is owned by Freedom.

Kushner, formerly an executive at Marian Heath Greeting Cards, had led Freedom on an extremely ambitious course of expansion, marked by frequent acquisitions and launches of new publications. However, his tenure quickly turned sour with a string closings and layoffs, finally culminating in yesterday’s resignations.

The 2100 Trust LLC, the investor group led by Kushner, first made waves in 2010 with an attempt to acquire The Boston Globe from its then owner, The New York Times Co., which the latter rejected (NYTCO eventually sold to Boston business magnate John Henry).



In 2012, after an aborted attempt to acquire newspapers in Maine, the firm shifted to the West Coast with the acquisition of OC Register parent company Freedom Communications, which was to serve as a base for a wide-ranging expansion across Southern California.

The overall strategy hinged on boosting local content and creating new print products to target communities more closely, in hopes of stirring advertiser interest with deeper local engagement. This strategy, however, did not pan out.

In 2013-2014, Freedom launched a short-lived new metropolitan daily newspaper, the Los Angeles Register, published seven days a week and distributed throughout Los Angeles County. The Register was published and distributed using the resources of the OC Register, but was supposed to eventually have its own LA office, with dedicated Los Angeles reporters covering local beats.

Meanwhile, Freedom also launched another short-lived daily newspaper, the Long Beach Register; acquired The Press-Enterprise of Riverside from A.H. Belo; launched a number of weekly community newspapers; and began publishing newspaper-distributed magazines. In March 2014, it revealed plans to launch a new Spanish-language weekly newspaper for Southern California, Unidos en el Sur de California.

However, the wheels were already coming off, with rumors of layoffs and growing unease among newsroom staff. After a fleeting existence from April to September 2014, Freedom shuttered the Los Angeles Register, followed by the Long Beach Register, closed in December after just a year and a half of publication.

Separately, the flagship OC Register became involved in a legal fracas with the Los Angeles Times, which Freedom hired to deliver the newspaper, over unpaid delivery fees; Freedom also sold the OC Register’s headquarters to a local developer, then leased back its old offices.

After Tuesday’s announcement that Kushner and Spitz were resigning, the OC Register quoted one unnamed journalist from that newspaper as saying, “the general reaction was relief.”

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