Sam Zell says Tribune is better as he prepares to exit (video)


Not that he really has any choice in it, but Tribune Company Chairman Sam Zell told CNBC that he sees no role for himself in the company as it exits Chapter 11 and wished the new owners good luck. Despite lots of criticism, Zell insists that Tribune Company is in better shape today than when he took over.

“The company is in dramatically better shape today than when we bought it in ’07,” Zell said in an interview with Maria Bartiromo. He said the cost structure has been rationalized and changes made to move the company’s media properties forward.

Zell himself has been quoted as calling the Tribune leveraged buyout (LBO) the “deal from hell,” but when asked if he had any regrets, Zell replied, “I can’t look back.”

After serving as CEO and Chairman originally and most recently as Chairman, Zell said he could see no role for himself in the Tribune Company once it exists Chapter 11 and wished “good luck” to the creditors who will become the company’s new owners. “They should enjoy being in the media business more that I did,” he said. Even so, Zell said “never say never” when asked to rule out ever buying back into media.

Zell refused to criticize recently ousted CEO Randy Michaels, but did express some displeasure with the New York Times for its articles attacking Michaels and the management of Tribune Company under the Zell-Michaels regime. “In the end it’s all about what are the results,” Zell said, and told Bartiromo that cash flow is growing at Tribune Company because of the changes made since the LBO.