Tribune Publishing Company’s board has appointed Timothy P. Knight as CEO and David Dreier as chairman of the board. Knight will also join the board and succeeds Justin Dearborn, who has stepped down as chairman and CEO after three years in the chief executive position. Knight held the position of Tribune president before the moves.

Tribune Publishing also announced that Tribune Interactive CEO Ross Levinsohn and President Mickie Rosen are out, as well, the Chicago Tribunereported. Tribune Interactive is the digital arm of the company.

“Tim is a proven operator with an entrepreneurial approach and digital media expertise. At a time when consolidation is essential in our quest to strengthen journalism, his experience transforming media companies will help achieve success,” said Dreier, a former U.S. congressman, in a Tribune Publishing news release.

“On behalf of the board, I want to thank Justin for his leadership. Over the past three years, he has improved Tribune Publishing’s financial position by building the infrastructure necessary to convert our award-winning content into revenue through an enhanced digital strategy,” said Dreier. “During his tenure, digital only subscribers have more than tripled and we have significantly reduced our debt and pension obligation. Our share price has increased 80 percent and our market capitalization has more than doubled.”

Ken Doctor, in his Newsonomics column, says Dearborn could get a payout of more than $8 million, and the other executives could get millions.

“The suddenness of Dearborn’s removal suggests that bigger moves are imminent,” says Doctor, who speculates that a Tribune-Gannett merger could be in the cards.

Newspaper group Aim Media and investment firm Donerail are partnering in a bid to purchase Tribune Publishing, say sources familiar with negotiations, the Tribune reported.

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