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Chris Harte officially out as Star Tribune publisher

This was absolutely, postively expected — indeed, announced repeatedly — but Chris Harte no longer works for the paper he led into, and out of, bankruptcy.
By David Brauer

This was absolutely, positively expected — indeed, announced repeatedly — but Chris Harte no longer works for the paper he led into, and out of, bankruptcy.

As the memo (below) from board chair Mike Sweeney indicates, Harte was supposed to be gone by Sept. 30, but the Strib hasn’t found a successor, so he’s remained on the masthead.

Safest assumption is that Sweeney is the de facto boss right now; he heads a four-director team appointed by the paper’s Big Five creditors. Sweeney, managing director of the Minneapolis-based investment firm Goldner Hawn, has been the point man meeting with employees and other community members.

Sweeney notes there is “no shortage of interested candidates” for the publisher’s job, which isn’t the same as saying “no shortage of excellent candidates.” But let’s keep our fingers crossed.

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Harte, a newspaperman by birth and experience, owned a 4.11 percent Strib stake which was wiped out in Chapter 11. He became publisher after the Par Ridder fiasco, working for no salary, though he did receive $64,800 in expenses in 2008, according to court documents. Harte’s recent bid for his hometown Austin (Tx.) American Statesman also came to naught.

In my mind, Harte’s biggest impact — outside of enabling a horrible business bet where a half-billion in debt sped up job destruction — was turning the Strib editorial page much more cautious and generally away from establishment liberalism. It will be interesting to see what changes new ownership brings there.

Here’s the communication:

To: All Employees
Subject: Message From Board Chair Mike Sweeney

I want to let you know that Chris Harte will no longer be our publisher. He had intended to leave at the end of September, but graciously agreed to stay on a while longer as the new board got organized and began its work. Chris has been dedicated and selfless in serving as our publisher as we went through restructuring. We thank him for his great service and for his deep commitment to the Star Tribune and to the community. And we wish him all the very best.

The board is now well into its search for a new publisher, and there is no shortage of interested candidates. We are moving deliberately and making good progress — placing our highest value on making the right decision.  — Mike