Stephen Buel, editor of the East Bay Express for the better part of a decade and a minority owner of the paper, has abruptly left the scene over "creative differences" with the Express' new majority owner.
Staffers at the paper were informed that Buel was no longer working there at yesterday's staff meeting. Managing editor Kathleen Richards and staff writer Robert Gammon were offered the position of co-editor by Jay Youngdahl, the paper's majority owner. They accepted within a few hours.
Buel, Youngdahl and six other investors bought the Express from Village Voice Media -- which owns SF Weekly -- in 2007. Youngdahl only became the controlling majority owner in August. The aforementioned term "creative differences" was used to describe Buel's hasty departure to the staff.
Messages for Buel and Youngdahl have not yet been returned. Gammon declined to reveal whether Buel quit or was fired, stating "Well, he parted ways with this paper."
Gammon and Richards' new job title stretches a thin staff to an almost preposterous level. "Yes, it will be a challenge," says Gammon. "We are going to be looking for a copy editor and page designer."
Buel remains a minority owner of the paper.
Update, 4 p.m.: Stephen Buel tells SF Weekly he was fired from the paper he'd edited since 2001. His exit from the Express, like Hemingway's description of bankruptcy, came gradually then suddenly.
"One of my business partners and I had a series of disagreements and he owns more of the paper than I. So he thought it was best we part ways," said Buel of East Bay Express majority owner and president Jay Youngdahl. "This has been building for quite some time. But it came to a head a couple of weeks ago at which time I took some vacation. I was formally dismissed yesterday."
Buel said he retains "a mighty 13 percent" of the paper.
"When myself and some other partners bought the paper, there were eight investors," he says. "Over the past three and a half years, the size of that investment group has shrunk down to three. And as that's happened, the nature of my employment changed."
The ousted editor and Youngdahl had been close -- "but, obviously, that's no longer the case today."
Buel complimented the Express' staff and said he was "pretty damn proud about what the Express accomplished while I was there." He noted that any journalistically inclined readers shouldn't be shy about notifying him of job openings.
Update, 4:20 p.m.: Express majority owner Jay Youngdahl said a "somewhat mutual" decision was made that Buel should leave the paper. "We had some differences of opinion and decided to make a change."
Youngdahl said that Buel "remains a part-owner, a great journalist, and a great guy." He also remains "a close friend," which would apparently come as a surprise to Buel.