In a curiouser and curiouser unfolding of events, the head of the Kansas City Star‘s parent company McClatchy is stepping down to take the top spot at The Associated Press.
Which comes as a bit of a head scratcher.
Because prestigious as heading up "one of the largest and most trusted sources of independent newsgathering" as the AP describes itself may be, it’s hard to imagine Gary Pruitt taking down the kind of coin he has at McClatchy at a not-for-profit.
For example Forbes pegged Pruitt’s "total compensation" for 2009 at $3,753,229.00.
Now add to that the value of Pruitt’s 2009 "unexercised options, currently exercisable at $6,788,500.00" and it’s clear that the one time McClatchy Golden Boy has been in the chips big time, despite spearheading the most disastrous financial move in his company’s 155 year history.
That being, of course, the purchase of then Star parent Knight Ridder in 2006.
Pruitt bet McClatchy’s farm on Knight Ridder and the Star at exactly the wrong time, paying $40 a share before riding the stock down last year to just over a buck. McClatchy’s stock has since rebounded to around $3 a share, but bear in mind it was trading as high as $63 in 2005.
Last October I sorted through how bad things were at McClatchy under Pruitt in a story headlined, "How Long Can Star Czar Keep Job With News Company in Six Year Freefall?"
Speaking of the Associated Press, on March 12 it reported that, "McClatchy Co. says advertising revenue declined nearly 6 percent from a year ago, an improvement from a drop of about 10 percent during the first nine months of the year. However, ad revenue in January was down about 8 percent from the same month in 2011."
Which undoubtedly explains the unexpected recent round of layoffs, furloughs and cutbacks at the Star.
If Pruitt wasn’t on thin ice at McClatchy, it’s hard to imagine who was. And if he wasn’t feeling the heat from management, it wouldn’t be surprising if he’d pretty much had about as much fun sorting out the nightmare he created as he could stand and was looking for an out.
As for McClatchy, it appears the company’s had enough of golden boys and has fingered a bean counter to take Pruitt’s job. Patrick Talamantes, McClatchy’s vice president of finance and CFO will succeed Pruit in July.
Which brings us back to the curious side, given Talamantes pedigree was in broadcasting.
In other words, he was a radio dude in St. Louis.
One last thing; in the AP’s release describing Pruitt’s qualifications they cite his "acute business sense."