Wednesday, December 26, 2007

GateHouse Media cuts ties with Cope


GateHouse Media officially announced the "resignation" of co-president and co-chief operating officer Randy Cope today in documents filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
According to the filing, Cope told the company Dec. 19 that he planned to resign effective Jan. 2:

In connection with his resignation, and in lieu of any payments or benefits to which he would be entitled under his employment agreement and management stockholder agreement with the Company, the Company will (a) accelerate the vesting of all of Mr. Cope’s outstanding restricted share grants to the effective date of his resignation, (b) continue to pay Mr. Cope his base salary for a period of two months following the effective date of his resignation, and (c) continue to provide Mr. Cope, for a period of up to 12 months following the effective date of his resignation, coverage under the Company’s medical plan at the same levels as such benefits have been provided to Mr. Cope and, in connection therewith, Mr. Cope will continue to make contributions at the employee-required levels.


Cope's departure will apparently end more than half a century of involvement of the Bush/Cope family in the Neosho Daily News, one of the newspapers owned by GateHouse Media. The family sold the Daily to American Publishing, the United States subsidiary of Hollinger International. Cope and his father, former Neosho Daily News Publisher Ken Cope, remained with the company and, in fact, climbed quickly to the upper levels of company management.
The smaller newspapers in the company broke away (with the help of payments to Conrad Black and David Radler) in 1998 to become Liberty Group Publishing. The name was changed to GateHouse Media two years ago.

Cope appeared to be on the fast track to success with the company, especially after the departure of former Liberty Group Publishing CEO Ken Serota, but his star began to diminish after the arrival of former Community Newspaper Holdings, Inc (owner of the Joplin Globe) CEO Michael Reed and the hiring of several Reed confederates at positions with more power than that held by Cope.

Cope's position as of today's announcement is "co-president and co-chief operating officer responsible for our Southern Midwest Region," according to the GateHouse Media website. Cope had been executive vice president from April 2002 to June 2005.

From 1995 to 1998, Cope was publisher of the Northwest Arkansas Times in Fayetteville. Prior to that, he had been publisher of the Neosho Daily News, a position he resumed when he joined Liberty Group Publishing in 1998 and held until he ceded that responsibility to Rick Rogers in June 2005, when a news release from Liberty indicated Cope and Scott Champion were the new heads of the company replacing Serota. As noted in the June 7, 2005, Turner Report:

Neosho's Randy Cope is officially the top man at Liberty Group Publishing. At least he will be one of two who will share that position.
The announcement was made today, along with the announcement that the purchase of Liberty by Fortress Investment Group LLC has been finalized. The move had previously been publicized in the Daily, with the announcement that Rick Rogers had been promoted to the publisher position, and in Editor & Publisher, a newspaper industry trade publication.


When Fortress Investment Group purchased Liberty, it pushed for the hiring of Reed, after which Cope's power and influence in the company diminished.

It will be interesting to see what the removal of Cope will do to the area newspapers which have been affected so much by his decisions of the past few years. Chip Watson,the manager for the newspapers in this region, who has been with Cope from the American Publishing days through the years at the Northwest Arkansas Times and then back to Liberty and GateHouse, has been under fire in recent months and no longer has his chief protector.

The news could also spell trouble for Carthage Press Managing Editor Buzz Ball, whose close ties with the Cope/Bush family extend to the days when his father, Bill Ball, was the Daily's sports editor. Ball has done little to endear himself to Press readers during the months he has been at the helm.

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

Gatehouse's weekend announcement of people named vice president of circulation for the eastern region and vice president of circulation for the western region gives further evidence that a significant evaluation of abilities and restructuring took place at Gatehouse last week.

Anonymous said...

I hear the train a coming....it's coming round the bin....

Holy cow let's hope this finally becomes a newspaper without just the touchy feely good stories about their families and friends.

Let us pray.....

Anonymous said...

Randy Cope was fired. That's the unvarnished truth.

Sherlock Holmes said...

Hopefully GateHouse will also give Cope crony Chip Watson the axe as well. Watson has fired a lot of people, it would be fun to see him on the receiving end for a change. If GateHouse needs any motivation, they should be reminded about the Joplin Daily fiasco. Watson fiddled while the paper burned.

Anonymous said...

Someone at GateHouse must already know that while Watson can't ruin a cash cow like the Big Nickel, he doesn't know anything about running newspapers. Cope had named Watson regional manager for the area that included southwest Missouri and papers in Kansas towns of Derby, Augusta and McPherson, but I hear that the new acquisitions around Pittsburg, Kan. are not his. Hope he has his resume ready to go.

Anonymous said...

The story (or lack of a story so far) at the Neosho Daily News says a lot about this "resignation"

Anonymous said...

Still no story about Randy's termination in the Neosho Daily News. What's up with that, Rick Rogers? Don't you think it's newsworthy? Show some balls, please!

Anonymous said...

Randy, your bias against the paper that you got fired from is very transparent. Myabe you guys should look at the facts...Randy will walk away with probably a million bucks...have another 2-3 million in stock, and have health insurance paid for the next 12 months. Meanwhile...Randy still lives in an apartment, Hacker is driving a 1970's van and Wells is still trying to figure out what he wants to be when he grows up. Sounds like the axe was pretty good to some.

Anonymous said...

What do Hacker and Wells have to do with Randy Cope being fired? Sounds like someone is jealous of Hacker's van and Wells' girlfriend.

Randy said...

To the anonymous reader who mentioned my bias against the paper that fired me, I would like to make a few points:

1. Randy Cope was generous enough to offer me a reporter position at the Neosho Daily News in the summer of 2003 shortly after the Diamond School District placed me on an unpaid leave of absence for the 2003-2004 school year. Cope wanted me to work with his younger reporters, teaching them investigative reporting techniques, and also to lead them by example. I was prepared to accept the job when I was offered the teaching position at South Middle School. I have no reason to be biased against Randy Cope.
From what I have been told about the circumstances surrounding my firing at The Carthage Press in 1999, that decision was made by Ken Serota, who was Liberty Group Publishing CEO at the time and was based on the lawsuit Terry Reed brought against The Press and me in the summer of 1998. In the summer of 1999, when Floyd Jernigan, publisher of the Miami News-Record, offered me the managing editor position at that newspaper, he told me he was given a glowing recommendation by Ralph Bush, the publisher at The Press at the time. I turned down the newspaper offer because Dr. Greg Smith hired me to teach at Diamond.

Being out of the newspaper business has enabled me to do a number of things that I could not have done otherwise. That being said, the items I have written in this blog about GateHouse Media fall into two categories- news and commentary. I have definite opinions on the way today's newspapers are run, not just GateHouse newspapers, but newspapers everywhere. And yes, the criticisms I make, and the recommendations I make to improve the newspapers are based on 22 years of experience as a reporter and editor and nearly 50 years of reading newspapers.
While I don't know where it comes from, or why it exists, the biggest source of bias in this case appears to come from the anonymous commenter.

Anonymous said...

Another day passes...still no story in the Neosho paper about native son Randy Cope. I guess they must be preoccupied with the holiday basketball tournament down there and forgetting to cover a real news story.

Anonymous said...

"I hear the train a coming....it's coming round the bin....

Holy cow let's hope this finally becomes a newspaper without just the touchy feely good stories about their families and friends.

Let us pray....."

Huh?