Hollinger International Restructures Its Chicago Operations

By: Mark Fitzgerald

In a sweeping reorganization that represents its latest attempt to move beyond the financial and circulation scandals under its ousted mogul Conrad Black, Hollinger International Wednesday announced the realignment of its Chicago cluster into three divisions, and renamed it The Sun-Times News Group.

?This means we have momentum going here,? John Cruickshank, publisher of the Chicago Sun-Times Publisher and chief operating officer of the Chicago cluster, said in an interview.

?This is a real step forward, and an acknowledgement that bringing the operation together had to be more than talk,? he said.

The realignment continues a 180-degree shift in marketing philosophy that Cruickshank brought to the cluster of more than 100 dailies, weeklies, and Internet operations when he was named to replace former publisher and key Hollinger International executive David Radler. Hollinger International has accused Radler, Black, and their allies of ?looting? the company of more than $400 million.

Radler believed that all the newspapers in the sprawling cluster, which reaches from Gary, Ind., to the Wisconsin border, should compete against each other for advertising. When he took over, Cruickshank immediately let any salesperson sell into any paper or combination.

?We had these wonderful experiments in cross-selling, and the numbers just went off the chart,? he said.

The restructuring announced Wednesday creates a single company with three divisions.

The Metro division will include the flagship Sun-Times and its Internet operations. It will be led by Cruickshank.

The North division will include the approximately 60 Pioneer community newspapers, as well as the daily Waukegan News Sun, its News Sun Plus total market coverage product, and the Spanish-language. Larry Green, president and publisher of Pioneer Newspapers, was named to head this division.

A South division merges Fox Valley Publications with Midwest Suburban Publishing Inc. It will be led by Fox Valley President Fred Lebolt.

The Post-Tribune in Gary will eventually join the South division. Its publisher, Boni Fine, was named to vice president of strategic development for The Sun-Times News Group.

The realignment is also a step towards consolidating production of the group’s newspapers, Cruickshank said, which are now spread among five printing facilities, including two — at the Post-Tribune and Midwest Suburban — that he said have ?quality problems.?

?We’ve costed out a plan that takes us from five plants to three, and there’s no question the numbers work, but we’re looking at a series of other options,? Cruickshank said.

Those include outsourcing printing.

?We’re already doing some consolidation,? he added. ?Instead of thinking of printing plants as being owned by the particular papers, we’re thinking in terms of getting the right job to the right plant.? Some Sun-Times printing, for instance, could be shifted from its near-downtown plant to the Fox Valley plant in Plainfield so that copies can be delivered sooner to subscribers and single-copy buying commuters.

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