CJ top editor Budde is out, effective immediately; paper to ‘sharpen our focus on investigative journalism’

Neil Budde‘s abrupt resignation was announced this morning in an email to staff from Publisher Wesley Jackson, who didn’t provide an explanation for his departure. Budde, who is about 60, had been in the job since September 2013.

neil-budde
Budde

Budde leaves as the paper faces heightened competition from legacy rivals such as WDRB and from new ones: WFPL’s Kentucky Center for Investigative Reporting, and digital standalone Insider Louisville.

In his email, Jackson said: “We will sharpen our focus on investigative journalism and the urgency of all our coverage while doubling down on our goals of building new audiences and engaging them digitally.”

Jackson didn’t say whether any other staffing changes were in the works.

CJ owner Gannett Co. is ramping up efforts to coordinate news coverage among the approximately 100 dailies in the chain by having reporters from different sites work together on projects with a more national scope. The Louisville paper’s shakeup also comes as Gannett draws closer to buying Tronc, which owns the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune and seven other big dailies plus 160 smaller weekly and monthly niche titles.

Jeff Taylor, the top editor at the CJ’s sister paper, the Indianapolis Star, will serve as interim editor while a permanent editor is found, according to Jackson.

Papa John’s serves up ‘one of biggest’ launches, and Wall Street smacks its lips

A news summary focused on 10 big employers; updated 8:49 a.m.

PAPA JOHN’S: Calling it “one of its biggest product innovations in a decade,” the company has introduced a pan-style pizza with an even greater emphasis on fresh ingredients. “Made from fresh, never-frozen pan dough with no artificial preservatives,” the chain said yesterday in a news release, “this crust features seven simple ingredients — a signature blend of flour and extra virgin olive oil, cold-filtered water, sugar, salt, yeast and oil.”

papa-johns-pan-pizzaPapa John’s is promoting the new menu item with a specially designed black box, and a new advertising campaign featuring retired Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning, NFL Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt, and CEO John Schnatter. (See, above.)

Wall Street liked the news. The company’s stock (PZZA) jumped 3%, closing yesterday at $78.10, up $2.25. The rally continued after hours, with shares rising another 15 to $79.06.

Schnatter dumps another 86K Papa John’s shares; and U.S. economy added 156K jobs in September, weaker than forecast

A news summary focused on 10 big employers; updated 9:24 a.m.

PAPA JOHN‘s CEO John Schnatter continued unloading shares in the pizza giant, selling another 86,000 on Wednesday and Tuesday for $6.6 million, according to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing. That trade followed Monday’s, where the executive sold 73,637, and are in accordance with a trading plan he adopted early last month.

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The chain’s shares closed yesterday at $75.41.

In other news, the economy added 156,000 jobs last month vs. a forecast 170,000, the Labor Department said. The jobless rate, meanwhile, rose to 5% from 4.9% in August, according to the agency (multiple news accounts).

Courier-Journal owner Gannett Co.’s bid to acquire Tronc, owner of the Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times and other papers, could wrap up in the next two weeks if all the due diligence now underway checks out, sources tell the New York Post. “There is no disagreement on price, but there is still some [work] to be done,” one source close to the situation told the New York tabloid (Post).

The Post report follows an earlier one at Politico, which speculated the deal could be announced as early as this week.

Papa John’s CEO unloads $6 million in company stock

John Schnatter
Schnatter

John Schnatter sold the 73,637 shares yesterday at an average $78.17 each, according to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing this afternoon. The trade left him with 10.4 million shares, and was made in accordance with a so-called Rule 10b5-1 trading plan he adopted Sept. 2, under which he could sell up to $36 million of stock.

With these trading plans, top executives typically sell a predetermined number of shares at fixed intervals to avoid any appearance of trading on insider information.

Farrer: B-F is sticking with Finlandia; and Kindred sells 12 acute-care hospitals

A news summary focused on 10 big employers; updated 8:43 a.m.

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Farrer

BROWN-FORMAN is still “very committed” to its Finlandia vodka unit, despite struggling sales in major Russian and eastern European markets, according to Marshall Farrer, head of the distiller’s global travel retail business and a company director. Farrer’s remarks, at the annual TFWA World Exhibition & Conference now under way in Cannes, followed industry speculation earlier this year that Brown-Forman had placed Finlandia on the auction block (Spirits Business).

KINDRED said it completed its previously announced agreement to sell 12 long-term acute care hospitals in six states for $27.5 million to Curahealth, an affiliate of the private investment fund Nautic Partners. The hospitals have a total of 783 licensed beds in Arizona, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and Tennessee (press release). The Louisville-based hospital and nursing giant employs about 2,200 workers in the city, including at the Fourth and Broadway headquarters downtown. It has more than 100,000 workers nationwide.