Payday for Pruitt

McClatchy's chief dealmaker makes a tidy bonus

McClatchy Co. will pay Chief Executive Gary Pruitt a bonus of $950,000 for 2006, bringing his total compensation package to $2.5 million, the Associated Press reports. Local media watchers will recognize Pruitt as the architect of a series of deals that have turned the Twin Cities newspaper industry on its head in the last year: McClatchy's purchase of rival Knight-Ridder; the quick resale of Knight-Ridder's Pioneer Press to Hearst to be managed by Dean Singleton's Media News group; and finally last month's unexpected fire sale of the Star Tribune to a private equity firm.

In the wake of the first transactions, some 40 longtime PiPress newsroom staffers took buyouts; a number of employees in other departments were laid off--those who lacked union protection with precious little in the way of notice or cushion. Shoes have yet to drop at the Strib.

It's hard to imagine anyone's toasting Pruitt's reward in either daily's newsroom, his lofty and oft-repeated proclamations about McClatchy's commitment to journalistic excellence notwithstanding. Indeed, in City Pages' analysis of the Strib sale, featured on the cover three weeks ago, staffers had harsh words for Pruitt:

"Pruitt is a joke," said another newsroom source who prefers anonymity. "He said he would consider taking the company private again if the pressure for profits from Wall Street became too much. When he bought the Strib and critics said he paid too much, he said, 'I will prove them wrong over time and I look forward to doing that.' But he and McClatchy came into Minneapolis with all these promises and damaged two newspapers, us and the Pioneer Press."

Hard to imagine news of his million-dollar bonus has sparked healing feelings on Portland Avenue.