The president and publisher of the Des Moines Register & Tribune were put on leaves of absence with pay by the company yesterday, four days after it was disclosed that they and a group including Dow Jones & Co. were making a $112 million offer for the closely held media company that owns the influential Iowa newspaper.
David Kruidenier, chairman of The Des Moines Register & Tribune Co., said President Michael G. Gartner and Publisher and Executive Vice President Gary G. Gerlach would be on leave "until such time as the issues which have been raised by the offer to buy" are resolved.
The action was seen by sources familiar with the situation as indicating the anger of the Cowles family, which owns a controlling interest in the company, at the apparent renegade attempt by Gartner and Gerlach to find a buyer for the Register & Tribune.
Kruidenier, Gartner and Gerlach could not be reached for comment. Richard W. Gilbert, a corporate vice president for affiliates, was named acting chief operating officer to replace Gartner, and Charles C. Edwards Jr., a nephew of Kruidenier and, like him, a member of the Cowles family, was named publisher.
The Cowles family has asked the investment banking firm of First Boston Corp. to analyze the $100-a-share offer for the Des Moines company. Kruidenier said in a statement yesterday that the company's board -- which includes Gartner and Gerlach -- would have a special meeting in early December.
The offer for the Des Moines paper, which apparently caught the Cowles family by surprise, was made late Monday. In addition to Dow Jones, Gartner and Gerlach, the offering group includes two Iowa businessmen. Gartner, a former top editor of Dow Jones' flagship operation, the Wall Street Journal, was brought in by Kruidenier and the Cowles family to run the Des Moines operation several years ago. His apparent break with the family shocked many family members, Register & Tribune employes and newspaper analysts.
The Register & Tribune Co. is one of the remnants of a once-powerful media empire owned by various offshoots of the Cowles family. The family holdings, which once included Look magazine, still include the Minneapolis Star and Tribune, some smaller papers and several broadcast stations.