Brian Tierney: Sam Zell With Hair

Brian Tierney was a bulldog Philadelphia PR man much hated by Philadelphia journalists before he led a group that bought the Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News in 2006. Let's review how that's worked out:

In the summer of '06, Tierney and some wealthy Philly-area investors purchased the papers from McClatchy for more than $500 million. (Fast forward through a brief early period of cautious hope, followed by a painful extended period of wring concessions and budget cuts from the newsroom).

Last weekend the papers declared bankruptcy. The day-after story, gleefully reported by the bankrupt papers themselves, among many others, was that Tierney had awarded himself more than a 30% raise last year, even as the company was bleeding money. Then yesterday Tierney was forced to give up that raise. Today, he said that, hey, you ungrateful bastards, the bankers offered him a cool million to lead the company if he'd make even worse cuts, but he was too good of a guy to do it:

"For the last several months and up until the moment we filed [for bankruptcy on Sunday], they wanted me to stay and offered me a handsome compensation plan and a piece of the company," Tierney said.

He's a prince! He also vows to "never" close the Daily News no matter what, which is more of a play for sympathy from his employees than anything else, considering the amount of debt he's up against. It's not working. If Tierney had in fact led the papers to success, he might have been popular. But his business failure just reinforces the opinion of journalists who hated him before he ever became their boss—because he was a hardcore Republican flack who enjoyed complaining to editors about their reporters' work. One reporter he clashed with bitterly said:

"Reporters, we go looking for the truth. This guy, he goes looking for a wrestling match, and the stronger advocate prevails. If he has to pop your shoulder out of its socket, so be it," Cipriano says. "He doesn't understand what we do. He doesn't respect what we do, and he doesn't think we should be doing it... I don't see how a guy like that can run a newspaper and not just turn it into another extension of the spin machine."

He's an assertive, mouthy businessman with no newspaper experience who bought big into the industry at exactly the right time, vowed to turn around a failing paper, and instead rode it into bankruptcy, earning increasing wrath from the newsroom while doing so.

So basically Brian Tierney is Sam Zell with hair. But he does smile occasionally, so cut him some slack. [Pic via]