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Brian Tierney

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Brian P. Tierney
File:Briantierney 2007PRSA.jpg
Tierney at the 2007 PRSA International Conference.
Born 1957[a]
Upper Darby Township, Pennsylvania
Alma mater University of Pennsylvania
Occupation former Chief Executive of Philadelphia Media Holdings
former Publisher of The Philadelphia Inquirer
Spouse(s) Maud Tierney (m. 1980)
Children Brian Jr. Tierney (1983)
Bill Tierney (1986)

Brian P. Tierney (born 1957)[a] is an American advertising and public relations executive and former publisher of The Philadelphia Inquirer.[1] Born in Upper Darby Township, Pennsylvania, Tierney created Tierney Communications, one of the largest and most successful public relations and advertising firms in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, which he sold in 1999 and left in 2003. Tierney currently serves as chief executive officer of Brian Communications, which he founded in 2010, and RealTime Media, which he bought from the previous owners with the help of the venture firm, New Spring Capital. During his early years as a public relations advocate for his clients, Tierney was known for occasionally contacting reporters and their editors when he believed there was evidence of bias or unprofessionalism surrounding a negative story about his clients. Five years after True North Communications acquired Tierney Communications in 1998, Tierney left and founded another public relations firm, which was a sold a few months later.

Tierney in 2006 assembled a group of investors to form Philadelphia Media Holdings LLC, a group started with the purpose of buying The Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News. Chief executive of Philadelphia Media Holdings, Mr. Tierney also became the publisher of the Philadelphia Inquirer shortly after Philadelphia Media Holdings bought the paper. Initially, there were concerns about Tierney's neutrality because of earlier roles he held working in Republican politics and clashes he had with some reporters. But Mr. Tierney calmed those fears by hiring respected journalist and two-time Pulitzer Prize winner William K. Marimow as editor of The Inquirer and by signing a pledge not to interfere with the editorial content of the two newspapers. Under Mr. Marimow, the editorial quality of The Inquirer improved as the paper returned to its roots by doing more investigative stories. Initially, circulation increased in 2007 and advertising sales improved. Meanwhile, the Daily News won the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for investigative journalism for a series of stories on corrupt Philadelphia cops. However, the 2008 financial crisis led to a steep drop in advertising revenue. At the same time, circulation dropped as more readers migrated to the Internet. Newspaper values across the country plummeted by 90 percent or more. Mr. Tierney's group bought the paper at the top of the market and was saddled with a heavy debt burden. As a result, Philadelphia Media Holdings was forced to file for bankruptcy protection under the U.S. Bankruptcy Code. On April 28, 2010, the Philadelphia Inquirer, Daily News and were sold at a bankruptcy auction to a group of the original lenders, hedge funds and vulture investors led by Angelo Gordon & Company for $139 million. Mr. Tierney stepped down from his position as CEO of the company on May 21, 2010 in order to allow for a smooth transition. Several news accounts of his tenure have called him an "improbable savior"[2] and an "unlikely warrior."[3] Other accounts have said, "For Tierney...his tenure as CEO by many measures could be rated a success." and "As for Tierney, give him credit for trying."[4]

In the fall of 2010, Tierney went back to his marketing and public relations roots by launching Brian Communications, and purchasing Realtime Media, a company specializing in digital marketing services for brands that include CNN, L’Oréal, Toys “R” Us and Unilever. The fast-growing firm moved to Conshohocken, Pa. in the summer of 2013 after outgrowing its old office space.

Outside of business, Tierney has been active in politics and a supporter of Republican causes. Working for the Ronald Reagan administration in the 1980s, Tierney also worked in George W. Bush's 2000 Presidential election campaign, and Sam Katz's 2003 run for Philadelphia mayor. Tierney is also an active member of numerous board of directors including NutriSystem, The Episcopal Academy and the Poynter Institute Foundation, where he serves as chairman.

Early life

Brian Tierney is the fourth of five sons of James and Claire Tierney. Growing up in Upper Darby Township, Pennsylvania, he attended Waldron Mercy Academy and later The Episcopal Academy.[5] When he was seven, his family moved to Springfield Township, Pennsylvania. In 1975, at the age of eighteen, Tierney unsuccessfully sought the Democratic nomination for township commissioner of Springfield. During the campaign supporters of his opponent in the Democratic primary had torn down his campaign posters and stole other campaign items. Tierney became a Republican after the primary when a few Republicans who said they would look out for his stuff during his primary campaign, invited him to a party meeting.[6][7]

He graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1979, majoring in political science. At the University of Pennsylvania, Tierney ran the Penn Students for Gerald Ford campaign, and, at the age of twenty-two, moved to Washington, D.C. where he worked for the Republican National Committee in various positions, including as a messenger between Ronald Reagan's administration and Republican candidates across the country. Tierney moved back to the Philadelphia region as a Reagan appointee in the U.S. Small Business Administration's public affairs office. In 1987, he received a law degree from Widener University. Tierney married in 1980 and has two children.[8]

Public relations

While earning his law degree at Widener University, Tierney founded Tierney & Company Public Relations in 1984, which he financed on his credit card. In 1986, he sold the company to Lewis Gilman & Kynett.[9] Tierney stayed with Lewis Gilman & Kynett and by the time he turned twenty-nine he had become president and CEO of the public relations division.[8] In 1989, he left Lewis Gilman & Kynett and founded Tierney Group, another public relations company, with just three people. One of those people remembers Tierney's saying "We need to look at what everyone else is charging and charge our clients $15 an hour more." When told that was crazy Tierney responded, "We're going to be the best at what we do. We need to charge people accordingly."[10] The company quickly grew with billings of US$3.5 million and thirty-five employees in offices in three cities.[9][11]

In 1994 Tierney, in association with Chicago-based True North Communications, made a deal with Foote, Cone & Belding Communications to take control of FCB Philadelphia. FCB Philadelphia, which up to 1989 was Lewis Gilman & Kynett, was renamed FCB/Tierney in May 1994 and renamed again in 1995 to Tierney & Partners.[11][12][13] Tierney built the company into one of the largest public relations and advertising firms in the Mid Atlantic. Tierney's clients included IBM, McDonald's, Verizon, PECO Energy and the Pennsylvania Lottery.[8][12] The company created an award winning advertising campaign for Verizon starring James Earl Jones and the slogan "Philadelphia: The place that loves you back" for the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation. Other advertising campaigns included wrapping a giant hoagie around Philadelphia City Hall to promote Wawa Food Markets and an ad campaign to prevent a hostile takeover of PECO Energy by Enron.[6]

Cipriano affair

Along with promotions, Tierney would advocate on behalf of his clients when targeted by news reporters. Tierney would sometimes contact news editors to complain about coverage of his clients, accusing news reporters of being biased, incompetent and unprofessional. The most notable of Tierney's complaints to reporters was directed at The Philadelphia Inquirer and Inquirer reporter Ralph Cipriano.[6][8][14]

Ralph Cipriano was The Philadelphia Inquirer's religion reporter for about a year in 1993. During that time he was called several times by Tierney on behalf of Tierney's client, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia. After leaving the religion reporter position, Cipriano wrote articles for the Sunday paper, where in 1997 he wrote a profile on Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua. The profile turned into an investigative piece as Cipriano obtained documents detailing US$5 million in questionable spending and how the church was spending millions in the suburbs while cutting inner-city services.[8]

While Cipriano worked on the piece, he and his editors, Jonathan Neumann and Pulitzer Prize winner Robert Rosenthal, were contacted by Tierney. Tierney accused Ralph Cipriano of using inaccurate facts, trespassing and creating a protest at the Archdiocese's vacation home in Ventnor City, New Jersey, all of which Cipriano denies. Cipriano says that Tierney indicated to him that it was the Archdiocese that had gotten him removed from the religion reporter position, a position Cipriano says he thought he left on his own. Also according to Cipriano, Tierney indicated that if Cipriano was involved in any story about the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, Tierney would start a public relations campaign to ruin Cipriano and The Philadelphia Inquirer, a charge that Tierney denies.[8]

The story Cipriano originally wanted in The Inquirer was never published.[8] Cipriano accused The Inquirer of censoring his report and giving into demands from the Archdiocese.[14] Cipriano eventually was published in the National Catholic Reporter and editor Robert Rosenthal accused Cipriano of bias and not being able to prove his stories. Rosenthal said Cipriano "has a very strong personal point of view and an agenda...There were things we didn't publish that Ralph wrote that we didn't think were truthful. He could never prove them."[15] Cipriano sued Rosenthal and The Inquirer for libel and the case was later settled out of court. In an 2001 interview with the Editor & Publisher, Cardinal Bevilacqua credited Tierney with stopping the story and noted that The Philadelphia Inquirer's stories about the Archdiocese have been more positive.[8] In 1998 Tierney was named a Knight of the Order of St. Gregory the Great by Pope John Paul II.[6]

Later ventures

Tierney Group and Tierney & Partners, later renamed Tierney Communications, was bought by True North Communications in 1998, which is now part of Interpublic Group.[8] Tierney continued as CEO until April 2002, when he stepped down. He continued with Tierney Communications as chairman until December 1, 2003, when Tierney resigned and announced he was founding a new public relations firm, T2 Group.[16]

T2 Group lasted until June 2004 when Tierney announced it was being bought by credit card company Advanta and that Tierney and most of T2's management would be hired by Advanta.[17][18] Tierney became vice chairman of Advanta, but in February 2005, Advanta announced Tierney was no longer serving as vice-chairman. The company gave no explanation as to why Tierney lost the position and Tierney's employment with the company ended the next month.[18]

Philadelphia Media Holdings

The Inquirer Building.

In 2005 Tierney attempted to buy magazines Inc. and Fast Company from Gruner + Jahr, but failed.[19] Tierney tried again to enter the media industry in March 2006 when he assembled a group of mostly former clients or people that are with him on the board of the Episcopal Academy to buy Philadelphia Newspapers Inc. He and other local businessman formed Philadelphia Media Holdings LLC and bought The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia Daily News and for US$515 million from The McClatchy Company which was selling off newspapers in unionized and low-growth markets after buying Philadelphia Newspapers Inc.'s parent company Knight Ridder.[1] The buyout was met with skepticism by many at The Inquirer, especially by reporters who had been contacted in the past by Tierney on behalf of his clients. Tierney allayed fears with the members of Philadelphia Media Holdings signing a pledge not to interfere with the paper's editorial independence. Tierney said he would combat The Inquirer's decreasing revenue by spending millions on advertisements and promotions and not by laying off staff.[14][19] Tierney assumed the role as publisher of The Philadelphia Inquirer in August 2006 after former publisher Joe Natoli resigned for a job at the University of Miami.[20]

The Inquirer's circulation has been dropping since the 1980s, and except for briefly seeing a rise in weekday circulation in 2007, The Philadelphia Inquirer's weekday and Sunday circulation has continued to steadily drop since Philadelphia Media Holdings bought the paper.[21][22] Loss of circulation combined with an unexpected drop in advertising revenue have forced more than 400 job cuts at The Inquirer and Daily News since they were bought by Philadelphia Media Holdings.[10][23][24] As Philadelphia Media Holdings financial situation worsened in 2008 employees began complaining about how management has been monitoring things such as bathroom breaks and the coffee they drink, and that Tierney has been patrolling the parking garage seeing what time employees arrive for work.[10] Despite efforts to manage the financial strain, on February 21, 2009, Philadelphia Newspapers LLC, the subsidiary of Philadelphia Media Holdings that owns the paper, filled for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. The company hoped to restructure the US$390 million in debt it borrowed to buy the newspapers, but the end result was that the papers were auctioned off to the company's lenders.[25] The beginning of 2009 also saw the filing of a lawsuit that accused The Philadelphia Inquirer of writing critical stories about Chester Community Charter School's use of public funds after business negotiations between school operator Vahan H. Gureghian and Tierney failed.[26]

Other activities

Tierney continued his political activism in the 1990s and early 2000s by donating to local and national campaigns and headed George W. Bush's outreach to Catholics in the 2000 Presidential Election. Tierney was credited with helping generate votes for Bush and helping him win important states like Ohio and Missouri. Tierney also frequently appeared as a conservative voice on WPVI-TV's Inside Story. In 2003 Tierney headed Sam Katz's third campaign for mayor of Philadelphia, which he lost to incumbent mayor John F. Street. During the campaign, Tierney was involved in a highly publicized dispute with Neil Oxman. Oxman was a political consultant and friend of Sam Katz who worked on Katz's 1999 run for mayor. Oxman left Katz's 2003 campaign because he was unable to work with Tierney, saying Tierney was a "shameless self-promoter" and "full of bullshit". Katz praised Tierney, who he said was full of optimism, which Katz said was a great asset when things were going poorly in the campaign and in Katz's personal life.[6]

Tierney is a member of numerous board of directors in the Philadelphia area. He has been on the boards of Thomas Jefferson University, the Zoological Society of Philadelphia and the University Museum of the University of Pennsylvania, among others.[27] A member of the board for NutriSystem, Tierney played an important role in the company's turnaround with the decision to dramatically increase the marketing budget.[19] As a member of the board of the Episcopal Academy, Tierney galvanized the board of directors to buy land in Newtown Square, Pennsylvania and move the school there. In 2001, the school's board of trustees approved the preliminary step of buying 123 acres (49.8 ha) of farmland in Newtown Square. Tierney, along with fellow board member Brian O'Neill, led a ninety-day campaign to raise the US$20 million needed for the property.[6][28]

The Pennsylvania Report named him to the 2009 "The Pennsylvania Report 100" list of influential figures in Pennsylvania.[29] In 2002, he was named to the PoliticsPA list of politically influential individuals.[30] In 2003, he was named the PoliticsPA list of politically invluential individuals, where he was called a "potential statewide candidate in 2004."[31]


a. ^ Date based on news reports giving his age as 27 in 1984, 37 in 1994 and 49 in 2006.[6][11]


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