Saturday, August 15, 2009

A Textbook Bad Manager Gets Ready to Go

From Workforce Management:

[Sam] Zell is the foul-mouthed CEO of Tribune Co., the big media company that owns not only television and radio stations but also big newspapers including the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune and Baltimore Sun. He was in over his head from the moment he cut the deal to take control of Tribune, and his over-the-top hubris, chronic arrogance and terribly shortsighted decision-making (by both Zell and his management minions) have helped push Tribune into Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

It’s a bad management trifecta that led me to award Zell with the 2009 Workforce Management Stupidus Maximus Award, given annually to the “most ignorant, shortsighted and dumb workforce management practice of the year.”

Well, we may be starting to see the end of Sam Zell, at least as the guy controlling Tribune. The Chicago Sun-Times reports that “Sam Zell’s days as a media titan in Chicago are nearly over. … Eight months after [Tribune’s bankruptcy] filing, two sources familiar with the process said creditors are working on a reorganization plan that elbows Zell aside. The creditors, including investment banks owed $8.6 billion from Zell’s Tribune takeover, would stage a takeover of their own and sell off the company’s newspapers and broadcast stations as they see fit.” [Click for MORE]

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Friday, August 14, 2009

Zell Headed Out?


Chicago Sun-Times is reporting that Tribune Co. creditors apparently have had enough of CEO Sam Zell and are working on a reorganization plan that would essentially break up the company and get him out. Story lacks detail and the process is still ongoing, but there have been rumblings in recent weeks that the creditors want out. Before they can file a reorganization plan, however, the company must be given a chance to submit its own plan. A bankruptcy judge has given Tribune until Nov. 30 to do so.
William Brandt Jr., a corporate turnaround expert not involved in the case, said enough time has passed so that creditors and the debtor want to cut losses and save face. He said an honorable exit is especially important to Zell, who might need investment banking help for future deals.


Still, Tribune financial reports filed with the bankruptcy court show recent improvement. The company's cash on hand rose to $740.5 million as of June 28, up from $702 million in late May. It reported profitable operations in June aside from debt obligations, but for the period from Dec. 8, 2008 to June 28 it said it lost $836.5 million. The numbers don't include units such as the Cubs, which were left out of the bankruptcy filing.
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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Sunday, August 9, 2009

What’s a Big City Without a Newspaper?

Bruce Gilden/Magnum, for The New York Times

LAST STAND? A newspaper kiosk on Broad Street.

By Michael Sokolove

The New York Times

On a recent trip into Philadelphia, after I exited the Interstate and coasted to a stop at the first traffic light, a man walked up to my car. He wore a black apron with a change pouch and held aloft a copy of The Philadelphia Daily News, the city’s tart, irreverent tabloid. It gave me a warm feeling. Of course it did! I’m a newspaper guy. I worked as a reporter for The Daily News in the 1980s, and later for what we called “big sister,” the sober, broadsheet Philadelphia Inquirer. Even in better times, I would have been happy to see the product being hawked, but these days any small sign of life in the newspaper industry, even just the sight of someone reading a paper, feels positively uplifting. I handed over 75 cents for my Daily News, then drove on toward the center of the city — and U.S. Bankruptcy Court, where a hearing was soon to begin, part of an ongoing process that will determine the fate of the city’s newspapers. [Click for MORE]

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