Former Treasury Secretary William E. Simon is out of his job as chairman of the board of The Trib, the new morning newspaper scheduled to debut in New York City early next year.
In the tradition of boardroom politics, it is unclear whether Simon has been fired or resigned the post he has held since Aug. 8.
In a statement released yesterday, Trib editor and publisher Leonard Saffir said he fired Simon on Saturday, "because I would not compromise the independence and integrity of the newspaper."
He said the move became necessary because "Mr. Simon has increasingly attempted to gain editorial and financial control for political purposes."
Simon could not be reached because he was traveling to a speaking engagement in Boise, Idaho, but his secretary at Booz, Allen & Hamilton called the press release "ludicrous." She added, "actually, he resigned due to the committment of time involved, for personal reasons."
In an interview yesterday Saffir elaborated on his reasons for "asking for Bill's resignation." He said Simon was supposed to be the man who put together the financing of the new venture, but in fact, "he neglected his duties as a financial man, and instead began concentrating more and more on controlling the editorial operations."
Saffir said Simon tried to set up a special committee on the board of directors that would "screen every editorial hire, including editors, and writers. He was especially interested in being involved in hiring political and financial writers. I kept saying no to him."
In addition. Saffir accused Simon of trying "to take over substantial control of the paper financially," Saffir said. "He tried to take control through his friends' stock and his own."
Saffir claimed that Simon's financial investment in the fledging paper was "very minor." He also said that Simon did not bring in the investment money that had been hoped for.
"He probably hurt us instead of helping us," Saffir said, "because people would see that Bill Simon was involved and figure we didn't need them."
Two of the remaining four board members, besides Simon and Saffir, substantiated Saffir's account of Simon's departure. But a third board member, former Securities and Exchange Commission chairman William Casey, did not.
According to Casey. "From my understanding, Bill resigned because of his lack of faith in Saffir's ability to do the job."
Casey, who was brought onto the board by Simon, called Saffir's accusations about Simon's political motivations and editorial meddling, "nonsense."
Board members Carol Rosenwald, a New York businesswomen, and Harvey Reich, a New York lawyer who serves as the Trib's counsel, claim Saffir is telling the truth.
"Saffir was supposed to run the creative package, and Simon the financial package," Reich said. "I was there when Saffir confronted Simon and told him that he had not taken an active enough role in fulfilling his obligation to get together the financing."
Rosenwald concurred with Simon and Reich, adding "everyone wondered why it was so important to Bill to screen editorial hires."
"We expected Simon to take more of an interest in the newspaper. He was going to be the financial man, that was his role," she said. "He was not doing that."
Asked why Simon had not been confronted by the board earlier. Rosenwald said, "he's not the kind of man you confront." The only other board member, former U.S. Senator James Buckley, is in the Middle East, and could not be reached for comment.
In any case the timing of Simon's departure is unusual. Yesterday's announcement came only hours before an open house party at the Trib's new 711 Third Ave., offices in New York City. The party was held to introduce the offices to publishing and advertising people in New York and to announce that the Trib's first issue would be published on Jan. 9, 1973.