Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Tribune And Tribulations: Michaels Gone, Woes Go On

Posted by Dale Buss

What’s black and white and red in the face?

Since The New York Times ran an expose of the toxic corporate culture at Tribune Co. – owner of the Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times and other mega-media brands – Tribune has been falling to pieces.

Of course, Tribune has been attempting to put bankruptcy court behind them since its 2007 acquisition by real estate magnate Sam Zell. But more to the point these days is that Zell’s hand-picked CEO, Randy Michaels, seemed to have established a modus operandi at company headquarters in Chicago that only could be described as ink-stained raunch.

That led to Michaels’ recent departure, as Tribune creditors began to press for a whole new start for the company. And now, there is growing pressure for various Michaels confidants, associates and fellow travelers to leave the company as well.

Michaels brought legions of them with him from his days at Clear Channel, minus two key commodities: the requisite skill sets for understanding a diversified media business, and, by all accounts, basic tact.

Meanwhile, even a rebound for the U.S. economy won’t mean a return to happier times for the Tribune newspapers – or for any others. The internet and TV have taken over much of their previous news franchise, and Craigslist has taken many of their important classified ads.

So no matter who succeeds the frat-like Michaels bunch in running Tribune for the creditors and Zell in coming weeks, the road ahead is steep and rocky. Michaels might just end up being glad he’s not around to turn the page at Tribune.

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