Former Los Angeles Times Editor in Chief Lewis D'Vorkin was fired by Tronc Inc. on Thursday and several dozen other employees of the company were laid off.
D'Vorkin was the chief content officer of Tribune Interactive, a newly formed digital business unit of The Times' parent company. The reason for his removal was not clear.
D'Vorkin said the decision to part ways with the company was mutual. He noted that his "heart just wasn't in" the various initiatives that Tribune Interactive was planning.
"In discussions with the company that were going on for a while, finally I said, 'You know, it's time for me to move on and explore new ventures that take me back to my entrepreneurial roots,'" he said. "Those are the things that are appealing to me."
The layoffs, which included Tribune Interactive's Los Angeles-based video and online content teams that operated separately from The Times, were due to a change in the company's business strategy, according to a source familiar with the cuts who was not authorized to speak publicly.
A spokeswoman for Chicago-based Tronc declined to provide details, citing personnel privacy.
Departing employees in Los Angeles said they were laid off en masse during a staff meeting early Thursday afternoon that was originally supposed to be led by D'Vorkin. But he did not appear for the meeting, and instead, employees were told by a human resources manager that they were being let go. The manager cited a reorganization, according to people who were there.
The news comes after a tumultuous few months for Tronc and The Times, starting in August when several top editors were ousted from the newspaper. Tronc named Ross Levinsohn, a former Yahoo and Fox executive, as Times publisher.
Levinsohn in October named D'Vorkin editor in chief of The Times. D'Vorkin's tenure was brief — just three months — and marked by several hostile encounters with the newsroom.
In January, Levinsohn was placed on unpaid leave after NPR reported that he had been a defendant in two sexual harassment lawsuits earlier in his career and engaged in "frat boy" behavior in work settings before joining The Times. He was later cleared of wrongdoing after a company investigation into his conduct and was made chief executive of Tribune Interactive.
Levinsohn remains with the company.
Also in January, The Times' newsroom voted overwhelmingly to join the NewsGuild-Communications Workers of America — in part out of frustration with corporate ownership and concerns about pay.
A month later, Tronc announced that it had entered an agreement to sell The Times and the San Diego Union-Tribune to L.A. biotech billionaire Patrick Soon-Shiong. The deal is expected to close this month.
Tribune Interactive was formed after news of Soon-Shiong's agreement to purchase the papers; many of its employees previously produced digital content for The Times.
In announcing the formation of the business unit in February, Tronc Chief Executive Justin Dearborn said Tribune Interactive would "deliver value for our shareholders through growing digital audiences for our award-winning journalism, new creative content and product initiatives, and growing digital and diversified revenue streams."
But how it would accomplish that was unclear. In recent weeks, Tribune Interactive employees in Los Angeles said they were not given tasks and felt abandoned by management. They were especially concerned when several Tribune Interactive executives, including D'Vorkin, moved out of their downtown L.A. offices to the Westside without alerting them.
Thursday's layoffs came a few weeks after layoffs at the Chicago Tribune and other Tronc publications. On Wednesday, journalists at the Tribune announced that they had decided to form a newsroom union.
Times staff writer Lauren Raab contributed to this report.
Follow Andrea Chang on Twitter @byandreachang
5:35 p.m.: This article was updated with comments from Lewis D'Vorkin.
4:30 p.m.: This article was updated with additional details.