Philadelphia Inquirer editor Bill Marimow was suddenly ousted on Monday morning, but sources at the paper say the company owners are divided on the move, and it may be challenged.
A morning email to staff said that "effective immediately, Bill Marimow is no longer employed by Interstate General Media, Inc.," the owners of the Inquirer, Daily News and Philly.com.
Newspapers sources told me that publisher Bob Hall recently instructed Marimow to fire at least two veteran staff members at the newspaper, and that he refused on principle, precipitating his own dismissal.
In a telephone interview this afternoon, Hall declined to comment on whether he'd order Marimow to dismiss anyone.
"Publicly you would never comment on any personnel changes or discussions," Hall said.
He said the decision to oust Marimow came after weeks of talks about the nature and pace of changes needed at the newspaper. He said the changes were based on "reader research" but that he wouldn't get into specifics, in part for competitive reasons.
I'm told by multiple sources at the paper that the owners who bought the Inquirer, Daily News and Philly.com last year are divided on the question of Marimow's leadership and other issues.
South Jersey businessman and political power broker George Norcross as well as publisher Bob Hall want Marimow out, sources say, while former New Jersey Nets owner Lewis Katz and philanthropist H.F. "Gerry" Lenfest oppose the move.
In our phone interview Hall said he wouldn't comment on rumors, but that he'd spoken to each of the company's principal owners in recent months and, "they all know" his feelings on the Marimow issue.
I asked whether all the owners were comfortable with his decision, and if he was certain that Marimow's dismissal was final.
"Well, I made the decision, and I don't speak for the owners, and basically I stay out of that," Hall said. "You'll have to ask the owners that. But I think the publisher has a right, and I made that decision."
I have calls in to Norcross, Katz, and Lenfest.
Hall held a tense meeting in the Inquirer newsroom this afternoon, and one staff member said several reporters angry about Marimow's departure grilled Hall about his dismissal. The staff member said Hall "danced" on questions about whether the pape'rs owners knew of the decision and whether there were efforts to fire others at the paper.
Marimow is a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner who became the paper's editor in 2006 when investors headed by Brian Tierney owned the paper. He lost the job when ownership changed hands after a bankruptcy in 2010, then returned last year, when the paper was bought by the current owners.