The Zell era begins at Tribune


The electronic transfer of 4.2 billion bucks borrowed from a team of banks took place yesterday and Tribune Company became a private company, owned by Sam Zell and an ESOP. Zell immediately became both Chairman of the Board and CEO – and yes, Randy Michaels is now Executive Vice President and CEO of Interactive and Broadcasting. Another name familiar to many of our readers, Frank Wood, is one of the new directors of Tribune Co. Wood, who now heads Secret Communications, a venture capital company with the same name as his last radio company, was President of Jacor prior to the Zell era, when Michaels was VP of Programming.

“The transaction from hell is done,” Zell declared in a Chicago press conference shortly after the closing. Saying he was not interested in the past, only the future, the real estate billionaire explained why he decided to take the CEO post himself. “I became the CEO today because I felt that I needed to be a direct agent of change – and I promise you, you will not be disappointed.” Noting that Tribune had already done a lot of cost cutting, Zell said he will be focused on growing revenues and profits.

Zell said he was sick of hearing about the end of newspapers – “they ain’t ended” – and there were some hints about where he sees Tribune’s media businesses going, integrating content across multiple platforms. “In the end, what you’d love, in a perfect world, is if there’s a media package called WGN-Tribune-RedEye and people go back and forth to all of those sources to get complete information. That’s Valhalla,” Zell said.
In a move not previously announced, the Greenspun Family has become an investor in Tribune and Brian Greenspun, President and Editor of the Las Vegas Sun, is one of the new Tribune directors. The Sun no longer publishes as a standalone afternoon newspaper, although it has a daily insert distributed with the Las Vegas Review-Journal. But the Sun has an extensive online edition covering local news in Las Vegas and Zell pointed to that Internet experience as the reason he wanted Greenspun on the Tribune board.

There was little mention of the company’s broadcast operations during the press conference, but don’t look for any changes in either the print or broadcast portfolios. Zell said that no assets are for sale, other than the previously announced plans to sell the Chicago Cubs and Tribune’s studio complex in LA.  

See what Tribune announced about its new board members and executives.

Board and Management Changes

Tribune’s board will have a total of eight directors, chaired by Zell. The company expects to add the following directors:

— Jeffrey S. Berg, 60, chairman and chief executive officer of International Creative Management, Inc. He serves on the Board of Visitors at the UCLA Anderson School of Management, and on the Board of Directors of Oracle Corporation.  He is also on the London School of Economics’ Court of Governors.

— Brian L. Greenspun, 61, chairman and chief executive officer of The
Greenspun Corporation, and president and editor of the Las Vegas Sun.
He is a member of the Board of Trustees of the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C. and a member of the International Advisory Council of the Saban Center for Middle East Policy in Washington.  Greenspun also serves on the University of Nevada President’s Community Advisory Board.  The Greenspun family has made a significant investment in Tribune Company.

— William C. Pate, 44, chief investment officer of Equity Group Investments, LLC.  Pate serves on the boards of Covanta Holding Corporation and Exterran Holdings Inc.  He is a nominee of Zell’s affiliate agreement with Tribune Company.

— Maggie Wilderotter, 52, chairman and chief executive officer of Citizens Communications.  Wilderotter has 30 years of experience in the communications industry, and serves on the board of directors of Yahoo! and Xerox Corporation, as well as the boards for a number of non-profit organizations.

— Frank E. Wood, 65, chief executive officer of Secret Communications, LLC, a venture capital company in Cincinnati.  Wood, a former lawyer, spent 33 years in the radio broadcasting business.  He is chairman of the board of 8e6 Technologies, an internet filtering company, and serves on the board of Chemed Corporation and C Bank, a new business bank.

William A. Osborn and Betsy D. Holden each have been re-elected to serve on Tribune’s board.

— Holden, 52, joined Tribune Company’s board of directors in 2002.  She is a senior advisor to McKinsey & Company and the former president of global marketing and category development at Kraft Foods, Inc.  She also serves on the board of Western Union Company.

— Osborn, 60, joined Tribune Company’s board of directors in 2001.  He is chairman and chief executive officer and a director of Northern Trust Corporation and its principal subsidiary, The Northern Trust Company. In addition, he serves on the board of Caterpillar, Inc.

Tribune’s executive management team, led by Zell, adds Randy Michaels as executive vice president and chief executive officer of Interactive and Broadcasting, and Gerald A. Spector as executive vice president and chief administrative officer.

— Michaels, 55, was formerly CEO of Local TV, LLC, a company that acquired television stations formerly owned by New York Times Company. He has more than 37 years in media, including his role as president and chief executive officer at Jacor, which merged with Clear Channel Communications in 1999. As CEO, Michaels grew Clear Channel from 425 to 1200 stations in just three years.

— Spector, 61, previously served as executive vice president and chief operating officer of Equity Residential.  Prior to that role, he was COO of Equity Group Investments.  Spector has more than 35 years of experience in bringing various financial and real estate companies within Zell’s organization to operational excellence.  He remains on the board of trustees of Equity Residential as vice chairman.