John Saltas Sold His Soul 

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Today was bound to come. Things have been pretty good at City Weekly during a very difficult time in the newspaper industry. Many of our newspaper friends are having a hard time. It’s impossible to ignore the impact that a bad economy has had on the local newspaper industry. Maybe we were kidding ourselves that we were immune.

If we were immune, though, it looks as if someone else is driving the ship: After months of acting “weird” and being “constantly distracted” (by his own admission), City Weekly founder John Saltas has left the building. For good, it appears. Other than a few brisk goodbyes on Tuesday morning, he didn’t say much about his future intentions, other than to say it was time he moved on. To where, he wouldn’t say.

It’s been hard not to notice recent changes in his behavior. Since January, he’s spent more time at the office than usual, either alone, holed up in his office working late into the night, or on hushed phone calls. Suspicions were aroused when more and more “visitors” began showing up and getting the Saltas tour through the office. But, then, Saltas frequently had an old school friend, a Greek or Bingham buddy, or a distant relative come knocking. Today, March 30, however, suspicions mounted when he walked “Max” through the building, introducing him not only as a friend, but as the CFO of a financial group based in Tennessee.

Saltas left with “Max” before noon today. Before leaving, Saltas stopped by City Weekly Editor Jerre Wroble’s office and told her she could have whatever effects she wanted from his office and that he hoped to see her again. “I’ve heard stories about John getting offers to sell the paper in the past. With newspaper layoffs all around, I wondered how long he could hang on,” said Wroble. “All these years, he never gave in, but today, he wasn’t the John Saltas I know. I went into his office, and there were two shot glasses on his desk and the bottle of Crown Royal I had given him for Christmas.”

According to City Weekly Publisher Jim Rizzi, 2009 was hard on the newspaper, but it remained profitable. “We had to make some cash adjustments, but, so far, 2010 sales are better than 2009—so I don’t think it’s a good time to sell the paper.”

Was Rizzi aware of an impending sale? “I knew he was getting appraisals, and last week, he told me Max was coming to town, but I didn’t think he’d do it. I asked him what was going on, and he told me he’d never sell the paper. He obviously changed his mind. Or lied to me.”

Assuming he did sell, Saltas could be rich. Newspapers aren’t worth what they used to be, but they remain valuable. According to the National Media Association’s Website, “Each newspaper environment is unique and many factors come together to determine actual newspaper value. Market, competition, growth, revenue mix and other elements combine with traditional multiples to produce newspaper value.” Among those “other elements,” if City Weekly were sold to The Salt Lake Tribune or Deseret News, Saltas’  value could increase since either paper would get a market they couldn’t reach and it would knock a competitor out in the process.

“Saltas thinks Dean Singleton is a pox on newspapers. I’d eat my hat if he sold to the Tribune,” Wroble said. As for the Deseret News, “I know he considered it a good paper even though he’s not a Mormon. He likes Joe Cannon. He told me once the Deseret News is the same as City Weekly, only richer.

“But, will they keep us as employees? And would we want to work for either of them? Good question.” she said. “It could be the end of City Weekly.”

At press time, only Jim Rizzi seemed to know what was going down, and he wasn’t talking. He would only say he’d “stay as long as Saltas didn’t sell to a daily or Village Voice Media.”

Most City Weekly veterans seemed sad to see Saltas go. A few were elated. Some newcomers never knew him. Said one snarky employee, “Asshole.”

More: D.P. Sorensen thinks he has it figured out

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