Jim Rich, the former Daily News editor charged with bringing Deadspin back to life following a mass staff exodus, has resigned after just 18 months on the job, The Post has learned.
Jim Spanfeller, CEO of Deadspin’s parent company G/O Media, announced the news to stunned staffers late Friday in a memo that suggested he, too, was gobsmacked by the resignation.
“I am still sorting out the details, but wanted to let you know that Jim Rich has left the company,” Spanfeller said in the Friday afternoon memo, a copy of which was obtained by The Post. “A bit of a shock given all his comments at our offsite but to each his own.”
Rich was tapped to take over the Deadspin EIC job in January 2020, and by May promoted to editorial director of all G/O Media sites, including Gizmodo, Jezebel, and The Onion.
As EIC of Deadspin he was charged with moving the site to Chicago and hiring a completely new staff after 20 staffers walked out in protest in November 2019, bringing the popular sports, media and culture site to a screeching halt.
The rebelling staffers had clashed with a “stick to sports” edict top brass handed down in a bid to rein in their writers who were making advertisers jittery with their coverage of social and pop culture issues that affected athletes.
Spanfeller said he planned to announce Rich’s departure next week. “We will put out the following statement next week and will approach external communication about this in as above board manner as possible,” he confided to staffers.
In the statement Spanfeller said Rich “provided stability during a very important time for the company as we moved from a period of disruption (not uncommon after an ownership transition) to a much more stable platform.”
But insiders said the operation was plagued by turnover in the ranks and interference from above, including by Spanfeller who liked to insert himself into editorial decisions at all of G/O’s publications, to the chagrin of Rich.
Neither Spanfeller nor Rich returned calls seeking comment at the time of writing.
No replacement has been tapped for Rich, who built an entirely new staff from the ground up at Deadspin.
Rich served two separate stints as editor-in-chief of the New York Daily News before taking on the Deadspin job, leaving for the final time in mid-2018 when Tribune Publishing (then known as Tronc) decided to reduce losses by laying off 98 staffers, or 50 percent of the newsroom, in a single shot.
In something of an embarrassment to the paper, he briefly returned to take a bow at the News when it was named the winner of a Pulitzer Prize in 2019.
Venture capital firm Great Hill Partners had purchased Deadspin and about ten other sites, including Gizmodo, Jezebel, and The Onion, from the Spanish language network Univision in April 2019. But by October the staff was in turmoil. Things really came to a head when interim editor in chief Barry Petchesky was fired in late October for violating the stick-to-sports policy.
Within days, the entire editorial staff had followed him out the door.
One of the last staffers to have access to the site, senior editor Diana Moskovitz, submitted a farewell note on November 1, 2019. “Deadspin is dead,” she wrote. “Long live Deadspin.”
For three months, Deadspin was a ghost site until its restaffing under Rich. But just as it was relaunching, every major sports league in the country shut down as COVID-19 ravaged the country.