He reigned over the company that he cofounded in 1971 as though it were his family. But a family feud last week led to Douglas Creighton’s abrupt—and forced— resignation as chief executive officer of The Toronto Sun Publishing Corp., the parent of a tabloid newspaper network. After more than 20 years at the helm of The Toronto Sun, and later its sister newspapers in Ottawa, Calgary and Edmonton, along with the business daily, The Financial Post, the 63-year-old former Toronto Telegram reporter stepped down under pressure from Sun Publishing’s board of directors, just 17 months before he said that he would retire. Almost unanimously, employees said that they were deeply saddened by his departure. Said his secretary Christina Young: “Everybody is pretty grim. He treated us with respect and made us a part of everything.” While most of the Sun papers have weathered the current recession better than many of their competitors, they have all suffered from the general drop in advertising revenues. The Financial Post and The Ottawa Sun, both launched under Creighton’s guidance in 1988,
have losses estimated to be more than $20 million.
Maclean Hunter Ltd. (MH) owns 62 per cent of Sun Publishing—and also publishes Maclean’s—but maintains a hands-off policy in the Sun’s operations. MH president and chief executive officer Ronald Osborne was a member of the Sun’s human resources committee, which was responsible for the timing of Creighton’s departure, but he stressed that he was not acting as an MH representative.
Added Osborne: “Doug is within the retirement band.
What we’re talking about is not an ouster, but the handing over of reins.” He acknowledged that the action marked the “beginning of the end of an era; to pretend that everything will be the same without him as it was with him is nonsense.” But, said Osborne: “This is not a Maclean Hunter coup.” Addressing the staff of
The Toronto Sun after Creighton’s departure earlier in the week, he said: “I can’t tell you that Doug agrees with the timing. In fact, he disagrees very strongly.” Paul Godfrey, 53, president of Sun Publishing since 1991, will replace Creighton as CEO.
Known for his freewheeling style, Creighton—who could not be reached for comment last week—established The Toronto Sun with two others after the Telegram folded. He championed programs such as paid sabbaticals, and handed out cash bonuses every Christmas. Said Edmonton Sun editor-inchief Paul Stanway: “Outsiders find it hard to understand the degree of personal loyalty to Doug Creighton.” That may be why many employees took issue with the circumstances surrounding his departure. Noted Sean Durkan, deputy Ottawa bureau chief of the Sun newspapers: “We
were all expecting him to
go—he is 63—but there is some ill feeling about the way it happened.” Clearly, Creighton’s influence will continue to be felt in the newsrooms that he helped to create.
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