Mixed reaction to Tribune's cleared hurdle


The sale of Tribune Company to Sam Zell in the form of an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) was blessed with an overwhelming 97% approval vote by shareholders. This was hailed in the executive suites, but warnings were sounded by at least one group more closely associated with the loading dock. Sam Zell was happy, saying, "I believe Tribune Company is reasserting itself as a national leader in news generation and distribution. Despite the recent upheaval in the credit markets, my view of the company as an investment has not changed." And triple-hatted Dennis FitzSimons, who serves as chairman, president and chief executive officer of the company, added, "We’re pleased that Tribune shareholders recognize the value of this transaction and have voted overwhelmingly to approve it. With financing fully committed, we anticipate closing the transaction in the fourth quarter, following FCC approval and satisfaction of the other closing conditions." But the Teamsters Union had other concerns, particularly the lack of a seat for them on the board. Teamsters president James P. Hoffa said, "Without a voice for the employee owners the Tribune’s new corporate structure leaves employees, who will bear the lion’s share of risk in the company, without a means to address the challenges of paying off the massive multi-billion dollars of debt the company has taken on to finance this short-sighted transaction." He said that as owners Teamsters and other employees should be able to elect an ESOP trustee and to name Directors to the Board. He also said the union has filed with the FCC, urging it to assure that the goals of localism and diversity are served before granting any of the broadcast/newspaper cross-ownership waivers that Tribune is seeking to extend.