A federal bankruptcy judge in Delaware Wednesday gave the go-ahead for Tribune Company to pay some $45.6 million in bonuses to roughly 720 management-level employees. The judge still has to rule on whether to approve two other bonus programs for the company’s top executives.
According to the flagship Chicago Tribune, which has been following its own parent company’s bankruptcy proceedings quite closely, US Bankruptcy Court Judge Kevin Carey was asked last week by the company to consider the management bonuses separately from the bonus plans for the top 20 execs so that, with the approval, the company would be able to distribute the checks in February.
The Washington-Baltimore Newspaper Guild and the US trustee overseeing the bankruptcy case had objected to all three bonus plans. Tribune has argued that it needs the bonus plans to motivate, reward and fully compensate its managers.
The bonus issue has been pending since July, when Tribune first asked the bankruptcy court for permission to pay out bonuses through three performance-based plans. The judge has now approved the largest payout, the incentive bonus plan for a broad range of managers to the tune of $45.6 million. The other two would reward a group of about 20 top managers with about $21 million in all.
Tribune Co. CEO Randy Michaels recently informed employees that the company had generated much-better-than-expected cash flow of nearly $500 million during 2009, saying that was “thanks to a stronger-than-expected performance by both the broadcasting and publishing groups in the fourth quarter.”