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Exteriors of 365 Bloor St East head office for Postmedia Networks on March 12, 2018.Fred Lum/the Globe and Mail

Jamie Irving is stepping down as executive chair of Postmedia Network Canada Corp. after less than six months in the role, as the country’s largest newspaper chain deals with a heavy debt load and a tumultuous media climate.

Postmedia issued a terse news release Thursday stating that Mr. Irving was resigning from the board to pursue other opportunities, but provided no further details. Lead director Peter Sharpe, who was previously chief executive of Cadillac Fairview Corp., will serve as interim chair, the company said.

A spokesperson for Postmedia declined to comment further, and Mr. Irving did not reply to a phone call from The Globe and Mail.

Mr. Irving joined Postmedia’s board as a director in April, 2022, after the company paid more than $16-million to purchase Brunswick News Inc., the media arm of the Irving family holdings. One of the wealthiest clans in Canada, the Irvings own industrial businesses that span forestry, oil and shipbuilding. The sale of Brunswick News, which includes the Telegraph-Journal newspaper in New Brunswick, marked the family’s exit from the media business.

Mr. Irving spent two decades at Brunswick News and took over as publisher of the Telegraph-Journal when he was 27. He became Postmedia’s chair in January, replacing Paul Godfrey, who orchestrated the acquisition of the Sun Media newspaper chain in 2015, along with a swap of 41 titles with Torstar Corp. in 2017.

Postmedia now has more than 130 titles and websites under its corporate umbrella, including the National Post, the Montreal Gazette and the Ottawa Citizen. But the company is saddled with a heavy debt load, which it took on when it was formed out of the bankruptcy of CanWest Global Communications Corp.

In the six months ended February, 2023, the company incurred $16.9-million in interest expenses and recorded $288-million in long-term debt. Print advertising and circulation revenue, meanwhile, is declining as ad dollars shift online. Postmedia lost $36.7-million during the same time period, compared with a $26.5-million loss the year before.

While the introduction of a parcel delivery service has boosted revenue, Postmedia has repeatedly slashed costs, laid off employees and sold real estate in recent years.

The company said in January that it would lay off 11 per cent of its 650 editorial employees, not long after it announced plans to move a dozen Alberta community newspapers to a digital-only format and sell and sublease offices in Saskatoon and Regina. Postmedia also sold the Calgary Herald building for $17.25-million to U-Haul Co. (Canada) Ltd. that month.

Chief executive officer Andrew MacLeod said at the time that inflation and revenue declines had combined to create a “perfect storm” for Postmedia.

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