Joe Ricketts has pulled the plug on DNAinfo and The Gothamist.
The popular websites went dark Thursday just as Ricketts, the sites’ chief executive, informed staffers of the “difficult decision.”
The stunning news came in the form of an email from Ricketts, the billionaire investor who had started DNAinfo eight years ago.
“Today, I made the difficult decision to discontinue publishing DNAinfo and Gothamist,” he stated. “Reaching this decision wasn’t easy, and it wasn’t one I made lightly.”
The shutdown was so sudden that reporters were unable to retrieve clips of stories. Visitors to the sites were greeted by Ricketts’ letter — and nothing else.
Many of the 115 employees suddenly out of a job were not happy.
“shutting down gothamist and DNAinfo entirely — without even leaving up an archive — is jaw-droppingly vindictive,” tweeted @Max_Read.
Senior Editor Rebecca Fishbein, who appeared to be just starting an ill-timed vacation, tweeted: “Would anyone like to come to LaGuardia [Airport] and buy me 15 drinks.”
Employees were promised three months’ pay and one month’s severance.
DNAinfo was headquartered in Chicago and also operated in New York City.
Both sites had been racked by layoffs over the past year, but it was not enough to put them on a successful footing. Last week, employees voted to unionize.
DNAinfo “is, at the end of the day, a business and businesses need to be economically successful if they are to endure,” he said. “And while we made important progress toward building DNAinfo into a successful business, in the end, that progress hasn’t been sufficient to support the tremendous effort and expense needed to produce the type of journalism on which the company was founded.”
Ricketts made his fortune as the founder and former CEO of the brokerage firm TD Ameritrade. In 2009, the Ricketts family bought the Chicago Cubs MLB franchise.