Despite reports that the board of directors at Tribune Company would oust him on Tuesday, Randy Michaels is still on the job as CEO. Following the board meeting, the flagship Chicago Tribune ran a story with the headline quote “I have not resigned.”
In response to an inquiry by RBR-TVBR, a company spokesman had only this to say: “Tribune’s board of directors is focused on filing the company’s plan of reorganization this Friday and has no comment on any other issue.”
Hours before the New York Times had reported that Michaels was likely to be pink slipped Tuesday by the company’s board of directors. The Chicago Tribune then posted its own report that the board was meeting Tuesday to decide Michaels’ fate.
The Tribune Company has suffered embarrassment recently as the New York Times published a front page story claiming that a “bankrupt culture” had taken over the Tribune Company under the leadership of Michaels and his free-wheeling folks from the world of radio. The story was hardly a revelation to people who knew Michaels and his penchant for shaking up people wedded to tradition and the few truly scandalous allegations were unsubstantiated – and, indeed, denied by Michaels and Tribune. Nevertheless, the story gave Tribune Company some bad publicity as it was trying to put together a plan to emerge from Chapter 11. Even so, there was success on that front.
But then came a second round of bad publicity. Tribune Company Chief Innovation Officer, one of the “radio guys,” sent out a company-wide email with a link to a video called “Sluts” which included a woman pouring liquid over her naked breasts. He apologized and was suspended without pay by Michaels. Abrams then resigned.
According to the latest story in the Chicago Tribune, some members of the Tribune Company board have been concerned that Michaels has publicly embarrassed the company and has “aggravated the already-tortuous 22-month bankruptcy process at a highly delicate stage.” Those distressed directors have not been identified. Michaels himself is a member of the board, as is Sam Zell, who brought him to the company. Two other members, Frank Wood and William Pate, have close ties to either Zell or Michaels.
RBR-TVBR observation: Bringing in a new CEO at this point would be problematic in and of itself, since it would only be a temp position. Once Tribune Company emerges from Chapter 11, which may not be far off, a new board of directors will be selected by the new owners, the current major creditors of the company. That board will be free to select whomever it chooses as CEO. And since that new board doesn’t even exist yet, it can’t give any assurance to an executive selected by the current board that the post holds any job security whatsoever.