Less than one week after a contentious unionization effort ended with local New York news sites DNAInfo and Gothamist voting to unionize, the sites’ owner, billionaire Joe Ricketts, announced on Thursday that he was shutting both sites down.
Ricketts also shuttered sister sites that had not attempted to unionize, such as Chicagoist, SFist, LAist and DCist. The New York Times reported that 115 journalists had lost their jobs in total.
Ricketts—who has given millions of dollars to Republican PACS—is worth an estimated $2.1 billion.
News of the sites’ closure came unexpectedly—even to staffers.
They also found that all of the archives of their work had been apparently wiped clean—an especially vindictive-seeming move by Ricketts.
Visitors to both pages are now redirected to a message by Ricketts explaining his decision.
“DNAinfo is, at the end of the day, a business,” Ricketts claimed. “And businesses need to be economically successful if they are to endure.”
While Ricketts didn’t mention the unionization effort in his message, his opposition to the move was fierce and well known. (The sites voted to join the Writers Guild of America, East, the same union that represents Splinter and the rest of the Gizmodo Media Group.)
“As long as it’s my money that’s paying for everything, I intend to be the one making the decisions about the direction of the business,” he wrote in a letter to his employees this past spring, as unionization efforts began. Sources told Splinter’s Hamilton Nolan that staffers were also warned that Ricketts could shut the sites down if they unionized.
It seems that Ricketts has now followed through on that threat.
CNN’s Tom Kludt reported that staffers will be paid through February 2018.
This is a developing story and is being updated.