LA Times chief Ross Levinsohn on leave after claims of "frat-boy" conduct

LOS ANGELES - Los Angeles Times Publisher and Chief Executive Ross Levinsohn has been given an unpaid leave of absence amid allegations that he engaged in improper "frat-boy" behavior while working for other companies.

The Times' parent company, Chicago-based Tronc, announced Friday that Levinsohn is stepping aside while the firm investigates allegations disclosed a day earlier. Times President Mickie Rosen will take over.

National Public Radio reported the allegations of crude conduct and said Levinsohn was a defendant in two sexual harassment lawsuits before he joined the Times as publisher in August. The story also said Levinsohn admitted to rating the physical attractiveness of female colleagues at a digital media company where he worked prior to joining the Los Angeles paper.

Some Times employees had called for Levinsohn to be fired.

Tronc has hired law firm Sidley Austin LLP to investigate the allegations laid out in the NPR report, according to The Times. 

Tronc didn't indicate how long the investigation will take. But in an email to employees, Tronc CEO Justin Dearborn said the company won't hesitate to "take further action, if appropriate, once the review is complete."

News of the probe cam as journalists with the paper voted to unionize for the first time in the paper's 136-year history. 

The National Labor Relations Board on Friday announced results of a Jan. 4 newsroom vote. Reporters, copy editors and other workers voted 248 to 44 for representation by NewsGuild-Communications Workers of America.

The union will now begin negotiating for a contract with Tronc.

Tronc, which also owns the Chicago Tribune, San Diego Union-Tribune and Orlando Sentinel, said it respects the outcome of the Times election and looks forward to what it calls "productive conversations with union leadership."

The Times vote followed rising discontent with working conditions as the paper slashed jobs and struggled with declining advertising revenues and falling circulation in the face of online competition.