Saturday, September 25, 2010

Tribune Co. bankruptcy: Emergence of Aurelius Capital will complicate mediation in Tribune Co. bankruptcy -

Tribune Co. bankruptcy: Emergence of Aurelius Capital will complicate mediation in Tribune Co. bankruptcy -

New storm clouds over Tribune Co. bankruptcy case

Emergence of New York hedge fund Aurelius Capital Management lengthens odds of an easy settlement

By Michael Oneal, Tribune reporter

When U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Kevin Gross stepped up to mediate a settlement in Tribune Co.'s fractious Chapter 11 case early this month, most observers gave him slim odds of success.

Tribune Co. and its creditors had already spent nearly two years haggling and filing legal briefs in the case, and the only thing the estate had to show for it was more than $180 million in professional fees through August.

Since then, the odds of an easy settlement have likely gotten worse, according to interviews with sources on all sides of the case who asked for anonymity because they aren't authorized to speak amid the ongoing discussions.

If anything, they say, the sides were growing further apart on the eve of mediation talks, which begin Sunday in Delaware, and negotiations are likely to be complicated by the emergence of a pugnacious New York hedge fund called Aurelius Capital Management as a major player in the case.

One measure of the diminished hopes for a speedy resolution is the fading urgency among senior creditors to round up new management for the company. A month ago, creditors led by hedge fund Angelo, Gordon & Co. had been talking with former Walt Disney Co. Chairman and Chief Executive Michael Eisner and Comcast Corp. executive Jeff Shell about running the new Tribune Co. as chairman and CEO, respectively. But those talks have withered, sources said, amid the uncertainty surrounding the company's future.

major factor driving that uncertainty is the increased presence of Aurelius, which is well-known in the bankruptcy world for its litigious, fight-for-every-last-drop style of moneymaking. The firm has been around for months, steadily building a position in a junior class of Tribune Co. bonds. But a little more than a week ago, sources close to the matter said, it bought out a large portion of a stake held by Centerbridge Partners, another distressed-investment hedge fund, that until then had been the most powerful junior creditor in the case.

Aurelius tends to buy the unsecured junior bonds of a bankrupt company at cents on the dollar and then unleash an aggressive legal strategy to boost the returns those bonds get as the case is resolved. In that respect, it is not so different from the many other distressed-debt hedge funds that have swept into Tribune Co. securities since the Chicago-based media company and owner of the Chicago Tribune filed for Chapter 11 in December 2008. What sets Aurelius apart, observers say, it its stubborn willingness to wage battle.

"We can assume that any (mediation) settlement will not be acceptable to Aurelius," said one source close to the talks.

Centerbridge is hardly a pushover. It got into the case much earlier than Aurelius and was the chief agitator for pressing legal action against the senior lenders and others who participated in Chicago real estate magnate Sam Zell's 2007 leveraged buyout of Tribune Co., claims that now lie at the center of the case.

But last spring Centerbridge signaled its willingness to compromise, joining a settlement of the buyout-related charges, brokered by Tribune Co. management, that ultimately collapsed in August. Few expect Aurelius to be as pliant.

One reason for pessimism is the apparent economics of Aurelius' position. The firm won't comment, and there's no way of knowing precisely when it began buying Tribune Co. bonds or at what price. But it is generally believed that Aurelius was relatively late to the game, when market prices of Tribune Co. debt had risen from their post-bankruptcy lows.

Centerbridge had been willing to settle for a price of 35 cents on the dollar, giving its class of securities (face value: $1.28 billion) a recovery of $450 million. But that deal collapsed after a court-appointed examiner in the case, Los Angeles attorney Kenneth Klee, issued a report that concluded at least part of the Zell deal was a case of fraudulent conveyance, meaning the massive debt load that financed the transaction left the company insolvent as soon as the deal closed.

Since then, the market price of the notes has climbed into the mid-40-cent range, meaning Aurelius bought a big chunk of its stake at levels well above the original settlement price. To earn a profit, the firm will have to extract a much higher settlement from senior creditors, even as they move in the other direction. On Sept. 17, two of the biggest holders of the senior debt, Oaktree Capital Management and Angelo Gordon, filed a plan of reorganization that would give the Aurelius class an upfront recovery of less than $60 million.

"They are clearly missing each other," said another source involved in the talks, referring to Aurelius and Oaktree. The gap, he said, dims the possibility of "a restructuring absent litigation."

Aurelius was founded in 2005, but its principals, including a Harvard-educated former bankruptcy lawyer named Mark Brodsky, have been investing in bankrupt companies for decades. The firm wouldn't comment for this story, but its style, close observers say, is to pore over bond indentures and the general facts in a bankruptcy case and then try to build a case for why the owners of a particular class of bond or note aren't getting their fair due.

Opponents give Aurelius plaudits for doing its homework and say once it has established a position, even a highly risky one, it has enough faith in its analysis to spend more time and money than others might fighting for a recovery, either by litigating to extract more dollars from the estate or by wearing down opponents with the threat of litigation.

The recent bankruptcy of Lyondell Chemical Co. provides a good example. In that case, which also featured the threat of fraudulent conveyance litigation, Aurelius and other junior creditors balked at a proposed settlement that would have given the Aurelius group a recovery of 10 cents on the dollar, or around $26 million, sources involved in the case said.

With the threat of extended litigation hanging over the case, the unsecured creditors as a group spent eight weeks of hair-pulling, day-and-night negotiations to forge a new deal. It would have paid the Aurelius group 16.5 cents on the dollar, or $42 million, which most viewed as a major victory.

But Aurelius wasn't through. Arguing that its share of the winnings should be more based on its bond indenture, the firm then began hammering on its fellow unsecured creditors, asking them to augment its settlement. One weary group agreed to hand over $15 million, documents show, and others ponied up $28 million. In the end, the Aurelius class got 33 cents on the dollar, or $85 million, almost tripling what it was initially offered.

"It's a war of attrition. They just try to grind everybody else down," said one lawyer involved in the Lyondell case, noting that Aurelius also won various unique terms on its recovery. "They wait until exhaustion has set in on everybody else."

Aurelius doesn't always win big, of course. It was stymied by the judge in the Adelphia Communications bankruptcy, for instance. But it was emboldened in the Tribune Co. case, sources said, by the Klee report, which gave credence to the claim that the second step of the two-step Zell transaction was likely a case of fraudulent conveyance. Klee said that might open up senior lenders in the deal to claw-backs of millions of second-step fees, interest and debt payments. And it could expose Zell, former Tribune managers and prebuyout shareholders to legal action, providing many avenues for potential litigation.

The plan recently filed by Oaktree and Angelo Gordon proposes separating step two of the transaction from step one, which Klee suggested wasn't a case of fraudulent conveyance. It then asks U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Kevin Carey to validate (or not) Klee's step-one finding through litigation held before confirmation of the plan.

If step one is found to be legitimate, the plan argues, the company's operating units could emerge from bankruptcy court owned by the senior lenders, while the step-two claims would remain in what's called a litigation trust for the benefit of junior creditors like Aurelius. They would be free to pursue their legal claims against the lenders, Zell, company officials and shareholders. But they would only get a tiny sliver of recovery upfront.

Sources said Aurelius would fight that formulation, arguing that the strength of the junior claims deserves more upfront consideration in any settlement. Both Aurelius and the committee of unsecured creditors have also opposed Klee's idea that the two steps of the buyout transaction should be considered separately. The gap between the junior creditors and the senior group is so wide that few see an easy settlement.

Faced with that reality, observers said, Gross might focus the mediation on forging as much agreement as possible among the senior group and the unsecured creditors committee, which has been at odds with Aurelius. The judge enjoys high credibility among bankruptcy attorneys, and if he can drive enough consensus behind a deal, it could form the basis of a new plan of reorganization that would be acceptable to a broader group.

The question is whether Aurelius would fight a plan with broad support, and that is difficult to know. But history would show the firm is not afraid to swim against the tide.

Sallie Hofmeister of the Los Angeles Times contributed to this report.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Bad Year For Minorities In Broadcast Journalism

The minorities in the United States increased as a percentage of population from 2009to 2010, but at the same time, minority staffing in radio and television news departments was decreasing, and in neither case did the numbers reflect the total population, according to the latest RTDNA/Hofstra University study.

In 2010, minorities made up 35.3% of total population, but comprised only 20.2% of TV news staffing and an almost invisible 5% of radio staffing. The 2009 numbers were 34.4%, 21.8% and 8.9% respectively.

Hofstra’s Bob Papper, who directs the survey, observed, “Again, the percentage of minorities in television decreased from the year before. In fact, we end the decade with no gains whatsoever for minorities in TV news, and the percentage of minorities in radio news is down substantially.”

The minority figure is historically low: it stood at 7.9% in 2005, 10% in 2000, and 10.8% in 1990. Female employment, on the other hand, was relatively stable over that past decade, sitting at 21.2% in 2005 and 21% in 2000; and is still ahead of 1990’s 17.8%.

The drop-off in minorities from 2009 to 2010 occurred mainly among Hispanics on the TV side – they went from 8.8% to 5.8%. African Americans actually enjoyed a surge, improving from 9.6% to 11.5%. Asian Americans fell from 3% to 2.3% and Native Americans were stable at 0.5%. On the radio side, African Americans fell from 5.4% to 2.9%, Hispanics from 2.3% to 0.7%; and Asian Americans from 0.6% to 0.4%. However, Native Americans were able to buck the trend, improving from 0.6% to 1.1%.

Minorities enjoyed a slight gain when it comes to news directors, but were still well below percentage of population figures On the TV side, the Caucasian percentage fell from 88.8% to 86.9% from 2009 to 2010; on the radio side, Caucasians fell from 97.8% to 92.9%.

Women were present on 88% of television staffs and 40.9% of radio staffs, and held 28.4% and 18.1% of the news director posts respectively.

“Women have been right around the 40 percentage mark of the TV workforce for more than a decade. Last year, the number edged up to 41.4 percent, but this year it's back down to 40.0 percent. That could indicate that women in TV news lost their jobs at a higher rate than men, but it could also just be an anomaly in the numbers,” Papper said.

According to the survey, it was a mixed picture for women in radio news this year. The percentage of women in the radio workforce stayed essentially the same, up by 1.0 percent, and the percentage of stations with women rose by 10 percent, but the percentage of women radio news directors fell by nine percent.

Television station general managers were 94.7% Caucasian, and 92% Caucasian at surveyed radio stations.

Click here to read the entire survey:

About the Survey

The RTDNA/Hofstra University Survey was conducted in the fourth quarter of 2009 among all 1,770 operating, non-satellite television stations and a random sample of 4,000 radio stations. Valid responses came from 1,355 television stations (76.6 percent) and 203 radio news directors and general managers representing 301 radio stations.


RTDNA is the world's largest professional organization devoted exclusively to electronic journalism. RTDNA represents local and network news executives in broadcasting, cable and digital media in more than 20 countries.

Tribune Judge Refuses to Replace Law Firm Hired By Unsecured Creditors

By Steven Church

Tribune Co.’s official unsecured creditors committee can keep its current law firm during a mediation session designed to help end the publisher’s bankruptcy, a judge ruled today.

U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Kevin Carey in Wilmington, Delaware, rejected a request by some low-ranking creditors to replace Chadbourne & Park LLP as the lead law firm representing a panel of unsecured creditors.

Most members of the panel supported Chadbourne, saying the firm is the best qualified to represent it during two days of mediation starting Sept. 26.

It would be “wrong to take our general and put him in the back lines and put a major up front,” Jay Tietelbaum, an attorney for Tribune retirees represented on the committee, said in court. Each member of the committee is represented by individual lawyers who aren’t involved in the details of the bankruptcy.

Two members of the panel have complained that the law firm has too many conflicts of interest to participate in mediation. Those creditors asked Carey to replace Chadbourne for the mediation with the group’s other law firm, Zuckerman Spaeder LLP.

In an order yesterday, Carey told the creditors to try to divide the mediation duties between Chadbourne and Zuckerman. They were unable to reach an agreement, Chadbourne attorney Howard Seife said at the start of today’s hearing.

Zell’s Buyout

The seven-member official committee of unsecured creditors is divided over the $8 billion leveraged buyout led by real- estate billionaire Sam Zell that took the newspaper and television company private in 2007.

Low-ranking noteholders, represented by Wilmington Trust Co., want to sue fellow committee member JPMorgan Chase Bank NA and other banks that financed the buyout. Because Chadbourne represents some of the banks in other matters, the committee hired Zuckerman to advise it on a potential lawsuit over the buyout.

Deutsche Bank Trust Co. Americas and Wilmington Trust are the only members of the committee seeking to prevent Chadbourne from participating in the mediation.

Wilmington Trust claims the buyout was a fraudulent transfer that left the Chicago-based publisher unable to pay its debts and benefited only its former shareholders and the banks.

Fighting among Tribune creditors, who are owed more than $12 billion, intensified after July 27 when a bankruptcy examiner, Kenneth N. Klee, released a report that bolstered the position of lower-ranking creditors. Those creditors, including the noteholders owed $1.2 billion, said JPMorgan and the other buyout lenders should lose their position among the first to be repaid because of the 2007 transaction.

Tribune filed for bankruptcy in December 2008, a year after the buyout.

The case is In re Tribune Co., 08-13141, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, District of Delaware (Wilmington).

To contact the reporter on this story: Steven Church in Wilmington, Delaware, at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: David E. Rovella at

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Hearing on Eve of Tribune Co. Bankruptcy Mediation to Explore ‘Conflicts’ of Creditors’ Lawyers

By: Mark Fitzgerald

CHICAGO - The judge overseeing Tribune Co.’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy ordered a hearing for today, Wednesday, over allegations that one of the law firms for the unsecured creditors has too many conflicts to represent them.

The hearing comes as the divided creditors prepare for two days of mediation to craft a reorganization plan acceptable to unsecured creditors who do not want to be left with no payment, senior lenders who are poised to take over the company and current and former manager who could be held responsible for the alleged “fraudulent conveyance” of Tribune’s $8 billion 2007 leveraged buyout. Tribune filed for Chapter 11 reorganization almost exactly a year later in December 2008.

Two days of Mediation is scheduled to begin Monday, Sept. 26.

At least two of the seven-member committee of unsecured creditors say Chadbourne should be ousted as one of their attorneys because it also represents senior lenders such as JPMorgan Chase in other matters.

In a court filing Tuesday, the Washington-Baltimore Newspaper Guild, representing employees of Tribune-owned The Sun in Baltimore, objected to the motion to bar Chadbourne made by Deutsche Bank and Wilmington Trust, a distressed-debt fund. The union said the unsecured creditors were “well-served by the invaluable guidance provided by Chadbourne.”

In a separate filing, the unsecured creditor committee members Deutsche Bank and Wilmington said: “ “Repeated allegations of conflicts have cast a shadow over this case.”

In an order entered Tuesday, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Kevin Carey in Wilmington, Delaware, today told lawyers with the law firm in question, Chadbourne & Park LLP, to meet with the unsecured creditors who raised the conflict of interest claim.

He also said the committee of unsecured creditors should divide the mediation work between Chadbourne and its other law firm, Zuckerman Spaeder LLP.

Mark Fitzgerald is editor of E&P. (

Tribune Judge Tells Creditor Panel to Resolve Dispute

By Steven Church

Tribune Co.’s official creditor committee must try to divide the duties of its two law firms after its main lawyers were accused of a conflict of interest, the judge overseeing the publisher’s bankruptcy said.

U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Kevin Carey in Wilmington, Delaware, today told lawyers with Chadbourne & Park LLP to meet with creditors who claim the law firm has too many conflicts to participate in two days’ mediation starting Sept. 26. They should try to split mediation work between Chadbourne and the committee’s other law firm, Zuckerman Spaeder LLP, he said in an order issued today.

The seven-member official committee of unsecured creditors is divided over the $8 billion leveraged buyout that took the newspaper and television company private in 2007.

Low-ranking noteholders, represented by Wilmington Trust Co., want to sue fellow committee member JPMorgan Chase Bank NA and other banks that financed the buyout. Because Chadbourne represents some of the banks in other matters, the committee hired Zuckerman to advise it on a potential buyout lawsuit, according to court papers.

“Repeated allegations of conflicts have cast a shadow over this case,” committee member Deutsche Bank Trust Co. Americas said in court papers. Deutsche Bank and Wilmington Trust are the only members of the committee seeking to prevent Chadbourne from participating in the mediation.

Wilmington Trust claims the buyout was a fraudulent transfer that left the Chicago-based publisher unable to pay its debts and benefitted only its former shareholders and the banks.

Hearing Tomorrow

Carey scheduled a hearing for tomorrow on whether to bar Chadbourne from representing the committee in any matters. His order today would only apply to the mediation designed to resolve allegations about the buyout and allow Tribune to exit bankruptcy.

Fighting among Tribune creditors, who are owed more than $12 billion, intensified after July 27 when a bankruptcy examiner, Kenneth N. Klee, released a report that bolstered the position of lower-ranking creditors. Those creditors, including the noteholders owed $1.2 billion, said JPMorgan and the other buyout lenders should lose their position among the first to be repaid because of the 2007 transaction.

Tribune filed for bankruptcy in December 2008, a year after the buyout led by real-estate billionaire Sam Zell.

The case is In re Tribune Co., 08-13141, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, District of Delaware (Wilmington).

To contact the reporter on this story: Steven Church in Wilmington, Delaware, at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: David E. Rovella at

Monday, September 20, 2010

Two creditors propose Chapter 11 exit plan for Tribune

RBR-TVBR: Oaktree Capital Management and Angelo, Gordon & Company have teamed up and submitted their own proposed reorganization plan to a federal bankruptcy court for Tribune Company to emerge from Chapter 11. What’s most interesting is that the plan is not being rejected out of hand by Tribune management.

The move by Oaktree and Angelo comes as Tribune is beginning a mediation process with its various creditor groups in an attempt to move the stalled reorganization process forward. Oaktree and Angelo are still committed to the mediation effort, but have offered their plan as a way to move forward. They appear to have run their flag up the pole with Tribune management before Fridays’ (9/17) filing with the bankruptcy court, since the flagship Chicago Tribune reported that CEO Randy Michaels and COO Gerry Spector sent employees a note saying they hope the mediation succeeds, if not it "the general approach contained in the Oak Tree Plan may provide the next best alternative."

What Oaktree and Angelo have proposed is that the ownership reorganization of Tribune and litigation over the ill-fated 2007 leveraged buyout (LBO) be separated. Tribune would be able to exit Chapter 11 with its creditors as the new owners, while a Litigation Trust would be established.

The senior lenders would end up owning more than 91% of the New Tribune and a like percentage of a new $1.2 billion senior loan.

The bridge lenders and holders of senior notes would have the highest ranking claims on the remainder, although other creditors, such as Sam Zell’s personal investment company and holders of the so-called PHONES notes would still get to vote on the plan and have recourse to seek some reimbursement via the Liquidation Trust.

The Employee Stock Ownership Plan which owns all stock of the Old Tribune would cease to exist, but a new management incentive plan would be created to award stock in the New Tribune.

Eligible creditors would be able to elect to receive Class A voting stock of the New Tribune, but any entitled to receive a voting stake of 5% or more would have to certify that their ownership complies with FCC rules. There would also be Class B shares with limited voting rights designed not to be attributable under FCC ownership rules and warrants for creditors who prefer that to stock. The new Class A shareholders would be eligible to nominate candidates to serve as members of the new seven-member Board of Directors, which would include the CEO of the company as one member.

The new company would register its stock with the SEC and seek to have it listed for trading as soon as possible with either the NYSE or Nasdaq.

Oaktree and Angelo say their proposal is not intended to limit anyone’s rights, but rather to bring the protracted Chapter 11 process to an end and thus maximize the value of the company for all parties involved. “The Credit Agreement Lender Plan is not a ‘take it or leave it’ document. Rather, the Credit Agreement Proponents invite dialogue with all who might agree with the provisions of the Credit Agreement Lender Plan and all who might disagree,” they stated. “First and foremost,” they noted, they are 100% committed to the mediation process and are offering their plan only as an alternative if mediation fails.

RBR-TVBR observation: This is a rather clever package, actually. It would get Tribune Company out of its long Chapter 11 state of limbo without depriving any parties of the right to pursue their legal claims. No doubt some lower ranking creditors will take issue with the allocation of more than 91% of the asset value to the senior lenders, but that’s really an argument over a detail, since the senior lenders will clearly end up as the majority owners. If mediation fails, this would allow them to move forward to operating the company under a new Board of Directors with the Litigation Trustee deals with the legal battles which are sure to last for many more years.

Broadcast Union News Observation:
As usual, nobody is looking out for the non-executive employees, no provisions are mentioned to make the employee "owners" whole for their losses in the ESOP.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Mott's Strike Ends With Union Victory!

RWDSU Local 220 Members Declare Victory at Mott’s; Strike Over As Workers Plan Return to Plant

Today, members of RWDSU Local 220 at the Mott’s plant in Williamson NY voted to accept a new contract and to end their strike against Mott's (part of the Plano, Texas-based Dr Pepper Snapple Group).

Among the provisions of the new agreement are restored wage levels and the continuation of the pension plan.Other details of the agreement will not be disclosed.

The Mott’s workers will return to work on Monday, September 20, 2010, on what would have been the 121st day of the strike. The workers went on strike on May 23, 2010.

The striking workers stood up for working people both in their community and nationally.

The striking workers obtained support from a wide variety of union leaders and elected officials including AFL-CIO President Rich Trumka, New York State AFL-CIO President Denis Hughes, presidents of numerous International Unions, the entire New York State Democratic Congressional delegation and many NY elected officials, members of the Canadian Parliament, and unions and union federations from around the world.

The strike was the subject of national news coverage from the CBS Evening News to PBS Newshour, The Nation and The New York Times.

"Not a day went by without people stopping by to drop off a financial or food donation for the strike fund. The International, National and local community supported us thoroughly, and the RWDSU and Local 220 members want to share their thanks," said Stuart Appelbaum, president of the RWDSU. "The RWDSU members at Mott's have a message for working people everywhere: Stand up for what you believe in, and stay united."

The Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU) represents 100,000 members in the U.S. and Canada employed in food processing, retail and other industries. The RWDSU is dedicated to empowering workers in order to help members build better lives for themselves both at work and in our communities. Through organizing, collective bargaining, political action and community involvement the RWDSU is fighting to strengthen the middle class in the U.S. and Canada The RWDSU is affiliated with the United Food and Commercial Workers Union.

Broadcast Union News: Hey Motts, how do you like them apples? - BD

Tea Party Allies With Telecom Industry to Dump Net Neutrality

By Benjamin Sarlin, The Daily Beast

Tea Party activists are doing their best to kill Net Neutrality, convinced the FCC is plotting a takeover of the Internet. And companies like AT&T are repaying the favor with big donations.

Telecom companies have been throwing cash around Congress like there’s no tomorrow this election cycle, spending millions on lobbying and campaign contributions in the hopes of finally killing Net Neutrality. Now they’re getting a boost from an unlikely ally—the Tea Party movement.

Net Neutrality is the regulatory principle that all Internet traffic must be treated equally by service providers, meaning Verizon or AT&T can’t charge websites for faster speeds or block sites that provoke their ire. It’s the way the Internet has operated up until now and the FCC has tried to protect the status quo, but telecom giants have fought for years to block restrictions on broadband and mobile networks and may be in position to finally institute a tiered pricing system for accessing content.

A federal court ruled the FCC did not have authority over the issue this year, opening the door for Verizon and Google to cut side deals among themselves, and the agency must now decide whether or not to try and reassert control while lawmakers debate whether to intervene as well.

Tea Party activists are doing their best to tip the scales toward the corporate behemoths, following conservative leaders' warnings that the FCC is plotting a government takeover of the Internet.

Thirty-five Tea Party-affiliated groups
recently signed on to a letter to the FCC in support of the telecom industry’s top priority. Big-money conservative organizations active in the Tea Party, including billionaire David Koch’s Americans for Prosperity and former House Majority Leader Dick Armey’s Freedomworks, are leading campaigns against Net Neutrality.

Tea Party caucus founder Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) calls Net Neutrality “censorship of the Internet” while Rush Limbaugh slams it as “the fairness doctrine of the Internet.”

AT&T’s PAC has spent more on political donations to Democrats and Republicans than any other group this election cycle and the House Tea Party Caucus has been no exception, receiving $350,000 from the corporation, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

"I think there's a natural alignment on this issue," Brian Dietz, a spokesman for the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, said when asked about Tea Party support for his industry group’s cause. He said he was unaware of any specific outreach to Tea Party organizations.

Tea Party activists are doing their best to tip the scales toward the corporate behemoths.Phil Kerpen, Americans for Prosperity’s point man on Net Neutrality, credited Beck—who featured Kerpen multiple times on his show last year—with riling up Tea Partiers.

“He incorporated it into his whole narrative of issues to be concerned about and he really sets the agenda for the Tea Party,” Kerpen told The Daily Beast. “People look at this as another domino falling in terms of government control of a previously private industry.”

Beck may not have understood exactly what he was protesting at first—he bizarrely characterized Net Neutrality in Kerpen’s first appearance as the belief that Americans should not have to pay for Internet at all.“I don't remember anybody saying in the 1930s that everybody had a right to radio and we gave away free radios for the government,” Beck said during the episode.

Despite these groups’ attempt to portray the issue as a socialist scheme, it wasn’t always such an ideological battle. In fact, Net Neutrality once drew significant backing from the right wing. Some of its most crucial defenders in Congress in recent years have been Republicans, such as Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) and former representative Charles Pickering (R-MS).

“About five years ago, you saw Republicans and Democrats in support of Net Neutrality,” Jonathan Askin, a professor at Brooklyn Law School and former FCC staffer in the Clinton administration. “Now you see Republicans trying to frame this as an Obama issue.”Ironically, Net Neutrality supporters say, grassroots Tea Party groups, who often rely on simple amateur-run websites to organize their operations, are among those most likely to suffer from an Internet chopped into differently priced tiers.

This explains why the most prominent coalition of Net Neutrality supporters, Save the Internet, counted the Christian Coalition, Gun Owners of America, and conservative blogger Glenn Reynolds (also known as Instapundit) among its inaugural members: They feared they might be snuffed out by slow load times or even censored by telecoms in favor of wealthier, more mainstream organizations.

It’s hardly paranoia.

In 2007, Verizon blocked NARAL Pro-Choice from using a text-messaging application—an area not covered by neutrality regulations—over its political content.

These remaining conservative supporters are under increasing pressure to abandon their position. Recently, the Gun Owners of America left the coalition after right-wing bloggers accused Save the Internet of being a “neo-Marxist” operation, with GOA spokesman Erich Pratt declaring that "the issue has now become one of government control of the Internet, and we are 100 percent opposed to that."

The Christian Coalition has withstood similar attacks from groups like Freedomworks.
In an interview over email, Reynolds described his support for Net Neutrality as “pretty lukewarm.” He recently submitted testimony to the FCC reiterating his opposition to tiered Internet pricing, but warned against eventual government overreach as well.
“I've gotten a modicum of heat [from conservatives], but I'm pretty thick-skinned,” he told The Daily Beast.

Correction: An earlier draft described Net neutrality as "the law of the land." There is no existing federal law codifying Net Neutrality and the article has been updated to clarify its status.

Brian Ries also contributed reporting to this piece.

Benjamin Sarlin is Washington correspondent for The Daily Beast. He previously covered New York City politics for The New York Sun and has worked for This article originally appeared at The Daily Beast and is republished here with permission.

Tags:, Tea Party, Net Neutrality, Telecom, FCC

Tribune Creditors Seek to Sue Shareholders, Zell

Sept. 13 (Bloomberg) -- Tribune Co. creditors asked a judge to let them sue real-estate billionaire Sam Zell, who took the newspaper publisher private in 2007 for more than $8 billion, and shareholders who benefited from the deal.

Zell, the shareholders and six other groups of potential targets of the lawsuit "collectively caused massive damage" to Tribune, the official committee of unsecured creditors said today in a filing in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Wilmington, Delaware.

The committee, which once supported Tribune's plan to settle any allegations against Zell, told U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Kevin Carey that it doesn't plan to pursue the proposed lawsuit while the company is trying to negotiate an end to its bankruptcy. It said it wants to protect its right to file the case should mediation among Tribune's warring creditors fail.

Tribune filed for bankruptcy in December 2008, a year after the buyout led by Zell. Gary Weitman, a spokesman for Chicago- based Tribune, had no immediate comment.

The other potential defendants include Tribune's directors and officers and one of its financial advisers, Valuation Research Corp., according to the filing.
The committee didn't name any of its own members as potential targets. Those members include buyout lender JPMorgan Chase Bank NA and Deutsche Bank Trust Co. Americas, a trustee for some lenders.

Fighting Creditors

Fighting among Tribune creditors, who are owed more than $12 billion, intensified after July 27 when a bankruptcy examiner, Kenneth N. Klee, released a report that bolstered the position of lower-ranking creditors. Those creditors, including noteholders owed $1.2 billion, said JPMorgan and the other buyout lenders should lose their position among the first to be repaid because of the 2007 transaction.

Some of the lower-ranking creditors have already sued JPMorgan and other lenders for their roles in financing the buyout. They say the deal was a so-called fraudulent transfer because it added $8 billion in debt to Tribune without conferring any benefit on the company.

Some lenders have said in court papers that they oppose compromising with the lower-ranking creditors.

The case is In re Tribune Co., 08-13141, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, District of Delaware (Wilmington).
San Francisco Chronicle Editors: Mary Romano, Andrew Dunn

Tribune Goes for Gritty With Joetv

By Katy Bachman MediaWeek

Even as Tribune struggles with its long, drawn-out bankruptcy, the TV group is working to shore up a station portfolio that has been languishing over the years, particularly the "second" station in four duopoly markets.

The latest station to get a makeover is KMYQ-TV, the MyNetworkTV affiliate in Seattle, which is set to relaunch Monday (Sept. 13) as Joetv, with new call letters KZJO, and new branding and programming that defies traditional TV models.

Late last year, Tribune switched around programming on WTTV-TV, The CW affiliate in Indianapolis, adding more high school sports popular in Indiana, and pre-season Colts games. The Hartford CW, WCCT-TV (now WTXX), got rebranded as "The CT" in July.

New Orleans is next on the list.Tribune has nothing to lose. In these four-duopoly markets, the second stations have been running at the bottom of the ratings. Joetv is positioned to be the grittier side of Tribune's Fox affiliate. "Our market is irreverent, independent and not beholding to authority; that's how we came up with Joe.

We asked ourselves, what would Joe do? What would Joe watch?" said Pam Pearson svp and general manager of Tribune's Seattle duopoly. "Though we're pulling in male demos that are difficult to get, it's not just a guy channel," Pearson added.

Sean Compton, president of programming for Tribune, took his cue from the packaging and promotion practices made popular of cable channels and from his background in radio. Joetv is both a brand name and an attitude, skewing to a younger male audience, with programming and promotions to match.

Beginning at 5 pm, Joetv is airing a four-hour animation block packaged as "Cartoons from Hell," beginning with King of the Hill, South Park, and Family Guy, leading into an hour of The Simpsons in prime time at 8 p.m. During the day time there is a "Law and Disorder" block pairing Judge Pirro with Nancy Grace. Local news produced by Joe's duopoly sister station, KCPQ, continues to air at 9 p.m., the only local news in the market in that time slot.

Following the news, Joetv airs Entourage and Curb Your Enthusiasm. To make the program changes in prime, Tribune talked to Fox about moving the MyNetworkTV programming to 11 p.m. to 1 a.m.

Those wild and crazy radio guys at Tribune have already demonstrated they're not afraid to try to break (some may some may flout) with longstanding TV traditions. Some time this fall, Tribune will launch on KIAH-TV, The CW affiliate in Houston, "Newsfix," an anchorless, fast-paced newscast that's been reviled by many traditional local news execs. The company is also working on a morning show to air 7 a.m. to 9 a.m., with a similar approach called "Eye Candy". "Local TV news hasn't been reinvented in decades. Historically, stations have reinvented by putting new anchors behind a new desk with a new weather map," said Lee Abrams, chief innovation officer for Tribune.

While many of the new approaches have yet to be tested, Tribune is getting some positive traction in Hartford. The CT, with the slogan "The CT is the place 2B" has a social media, emoticon-style face graphic and sound bumper (called an air avatar) that drive the "texting" vibe of the station. Programming is packaged into blocks such as The Docket (court shows), Dysfunction Junction (The Office and My Name is Earl), and JunkFood Theater (weekend movies)."

The station was lost in a sea of mediocrity," said Rich Graziano, vp and general manager. "We're treating the station more as an experience. We took the best of radio, social media and the Web. Before we weren't in the field at all, now we're out in the market much like a radio station."The station's younger-skewing image has already attracted new advertisers. Dunkin' Donuts recently sponsored the station's College tour of 7 local colleges. "Advertisers view it as a way to breakthrough and identify with a targeted audience," Graziano said.

Since the new Web site, now instead of launched in July, page views jumped in August from 60,226 to 561,589, an 832 percent increase.

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Friday, September 10, 2010

IBEW 2010 Membership Development Conference

TheElectricalWorker September 10, 2010
IBEW leaders and organizers came to Los Angeles the week of September 5 to discuss the challenges of organizing workers in these tough economic times and mapping out a strategy to grow our union in every part of the electrical industry.

ESOPs Are Legitimate, But Zell's Deal Smells

By David Lewis
Published in the Letters to the Editor section of The Wall Sreet Journal

My opinion is that Sam Zell well deserves his hell, and that the employees of the Tribune Company probably feel he deserves a lot worse ("Zell's Hell" by Holman Jenkins, Business World, Sept. 1). Sam Zell and his associates, with their clever leveraged buyout scheme, took a profitable company and saddled it with so much debt that it could not possibly survive, resulting in a predictable bankruptcy.

Mr. Zell conveniently invested only a trifling amount of money (for him) and had very little to lose.

Some of the previous owners made huge profits in the buyout, and should also be in the same circle of hell as Mr. Zell.

Possibly the bankruptcy court will make an effort to punish those responsible for this fraudulent transaction, but I sincerely doubt it with the nature of the judiciary we have, and it is certainly too late to do anything to make amends to the many Tribune Company employees who have lost their livelihoods, and who never got the chance to make a newspaper company work in the modern world.

Subject: Ask the AFL-CIO Officers a Question!

Subject: Ask the AFL-CIO Officers a Question!

On the one-year anniversary of their election, the AFL-CIOs top leadership team, Trumka, Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler and Executive Vice President Arlene Holt Baker, will respond to your questions in a live Web chat on Thursday, Sept. 16, at 4 p.m. EDT

On Thursday, Sept. 16, at 4 p.m. EDT, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Liz Shuler and AFL-CIO Executive Vice President Arlene Holt Baker will host a live webcast. Submit your question now, in text form or by video, and recommend others' questions, at

Go to:
Submit your question now, in text form or by video, to;
Read and recommend other questions, get your friends to recommend yours and encourage them to submit questions, too.
On Sept. 16 at 4 pm EDT, go to;www.aflcio.orgto view the webcast live and comment in our live chat tool on Thursday, Sept. 16, at 4 p.m. EDT.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Tribune Names Head Of Restructuring Effort

Associated Press - CHICAGO — Tribune Co. promoted its general counsel to the position of chief restructuring officer on Wednesday as it attempts to lift itself out of Chapter 11 protection.

The publisher, which owns the Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune as well as other newspapers and TV stations, says Don Liebentritt will now focus exclusively on the company's negotiations with creditors.

The company promoted David Eldersveld, previously Liebentritt's deputy, to general counsel.

Tribune was close to finishing off a reorganization plan that would have turned the company over to JPMorgan Chase and distressed-debt specialist Angelo, Gordon & Co. But the deal fell apart last month after a court-appointed examiner found that some of the negotiations leading up to a 2007 leveraged buyout that took Tribune private bordered on fraud.

Bondholders looking to get more of their money back have criticized the deal and the man who put it together, real estate mogul Sam Zell.

The buyout loaded Tribune with more debt than it could handle as advertising revenue dropped across the newspaper industry, hurt by the recession and the shift of ad dollars to Web-based competition. Tribune filed for bankruptcy protection in December 2008.

To get negotiations with creditors back on track, a court-appointed mediator will facilitate talks.

Besides naming a restructuring officer, Tribune last month put together a special committee of its board to oversee the Chapter 11 process.

Friday, September 3, 2010

New York Nonstop Gets WNBC Tryout

By Alex Weprin

New York Nonstop, the 24-hour digital network operated by WNBC, is getting a tryout on the parent network. Programming from NY Nonstop will air on WNBC Sept. 7-10, from 2-4 PM.

Among the programs will be "The Debrief with David Ushery," which has host Ushery talking to top NBC News journalists about the week's news. Ushery will also serve as host of the NY Nonstop programming block on WNBC.

Investigative Shortfall

By Mary Walton
From AJR

Many news outlets are doing far less accountability reporting than in the past, bad news indeed for the public. New nonprofit investigative ventures have emerged, but they can’t pick up the slack by themselves.

On her last day at Fort Lauderdale's Sun-Sentinel, Mc Nelly Torres knew another round of layoffs was in the works. She went out for coffee, came back and said a prayer. The phone rang and a familiar name flashed on the screen. It was the editor they called the "Angel of Death."

Earlier in the day, Torres learned she had won a Green Eyeshade Award in consumer reporting from the Society of Professional Journalists, her second in as many years. Now she was out of a job.

Roberta Baskin, director of the investigative team at WJLA, the ABC affiliate in Washington, D.C., was waiting to take the bus back from New York City, where she had collected her third duPont-Columbia Award. Her cell phone rang. It was her news director telling her she had been let go, along with 24 other employees.

Roberta Baskin on Investigative Reporting American Journalism Review from Merrill College - UMD on Vimeo. Video Credits: Stanton Paddock

Tom Dubocq didn't wait for the ax to fall. At the Palm Beach Post, an era of fat budgets was dissolving like lard in a hot frying pan. In a single month in 2008, the staff of roughly 300 was reduced to 170, greased by a buyout offer that included health benefits for life. Dubocq's prize-winning probes of local corruption had put three county commissioners and assorted others in jail. He had his eye on a fourth commissioner, but instead signed up for the buyout. He was, he says, making too much money. "I knew ultimately I would get laid off. It was time to make the move."

What happens, I ask Dubocq, when people like him vanish from the newsrooms of America?

"The bad guys get away with stuff."

Kicked out, bought out or barely hanging on, investigative reporters are a vanishing species in the forests of dead tree media and missing in action on Action News. I-Teams are shrinking or, more often, disappearing altogether. Assigned to cover multiple beats, multitasking backpacking reporters no longer have time to sniff out hidden stories, much less write them. In Washington, bureaus that once did probes have shrunk, closed and consolidated.

The membership of Investigative Reporters and Editors fell more than 30 percent, from 5,391 in 2003, to a 10-year low of 3,695 in 2009. (After a vigorous membership drive, this year the number climbed above 4,000.) Prize-seekers take note: Applications for Pulitzers are down more than 40 percent in some investigative categories, a drop reflected in other competitions.

"There is no question that there are fewer investigative reporters in the U.S. today than there were a few years ago, mirroring the overall loss of journalists at traditional media outlets," says IRE Executive Director Mark Horvit. While he concedes that the situation is alarming, Horvit points to positive developments. New organizations dedicated to investigative and watchdog coverage have sprung up, and some mainstream news outlets are renewing a commitment that had been lost.

In July, a major investigative project underscored the importance of journalists as watchdogs of democracy: the Washington Post series "Top Secret America," on the nation's bloated security establishment. Would that more journalists had been on duty when subprime mortgage peddlers were running amok and the federal Minerals Management Service was sitting on a potential oil disaster.

"Eternal vigilance by the people is the price of liberty," Andrew Jackson declared in his 1837 Farewell Address. But what if the people don't know what's going on? "All citizens have a right to petition the government for redress of grievances," former Newsday Editor Anthony J. Marro, a onetime investigative reporter and a champion of accountability journalism, told a gathering of the Vermont ACLU last year, "but, as simplistic as it sounds, without a strong press they often don't know what the grievances are."

Elevated to hero status after two Washington Post reporters helped bring down a corrupt U.S. president and his cronies, investigative reporters enjoyed a golden era from the late 1970s into the 2000s. In cities blessed with activist media, reporters took aim at corruption, waste, incompetence and injustice in politics, government, charities and corporations. Cameras confronted culprits. An aroused populace demanded change. People went to jail; old laws were rewritten and new ones passed. Competition for investigative prizes swelled; others came into being.

The annual conferences of IRE, organized in 1975, were like revival meetings, infusing adherents with new energy and skills, and winning converts to the craft. Big names like Donald L. Barlett and James B. Steele of the Philadelphia Inquirer and My Lai hero Seymour Hersh drew rock-star crowds.

Newspapers and networks came looking for talent, and reporters came armed with résumés and clips. Free newspapers greeted early morning risers. The conference still draws well, but some of the bells and whistles are silent. At this year's conference, attended by 800, not even the host — the Las Vegas Sun — gave away copies.

Never has there been a greater need for probing coverage of the multiple ways in which the public is victimized. But as corporations sprawl across continents and government grows more complex, media resources shrink. The year 2008 was brutal for the nation's press. Some 5,900 daily print journalists dropped off the rolls, according to the annual count by the American Society of News Editors. And 2009 wasn't much better. Another 5,200 jobs disappeared. Meanwhile, in 2008 local television news shed 1,200 jobs, a 4.3 percent decline, according to a Radio Television Digital News Association survey. The slide tapered off in 2009; just 400 people lost their jobs.

In network news, however, ABC alone cut 400 jobs in March of this year; CBS had already let 70 go.

The shrinking rosters represent a two-front assault on investigative reporting. Investigations take time, lots of time. With much smaller staffs doing much more work in a multimedia era, it becomes harder to spring reporters from their day jobs to tackle important but labor-intensive probes. And with fewer reporters to go around, news outlets are much more likely to abolish investigative slots than the City Hall and police beats.

In the army of the Fourth Estate, full-time investigative reporters have always been the elite special forces. Frequently, though, investigations have been carried out by the foot soldiers — beat reporters who come across a good lead and lobby for permission to pursue it.

Decades ago at the Philadelphia Inquirer under Executive Editor Gene Roberts, when the paper was known as a prize-winning machine, only Barlett and Steele were detailed to full-time investigations. Says Roberts, "If there was anyone who came up with a good story, they had a reasonable chance of pursuing it at the Inquirer, and you did not have to be part of a team."

But fewer and fewer foot soldiers are on patrol.

See the rest of the article at

Mary Walton ( is a former reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer. Her most recent book, “A Woman’s Crusade: Alice Paul and the Battle for the Ballot,” was published by Palgrave Macmillan in August.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Public Interest Groups Growing Impatient With FCC

By Juliana Gruenwald

Saying the issue has been studied long enough, public interest groups Wednesday called on the FCC to proceed with action on network neutrality rules that would bar broadband providers from discriminating against or prioritizing Internet content.

The groups made the call in response to the public notice issued Wednesday by the commission related to its open Internet proceeding. It has called for additional public comment on whether open Internet rules should be applied to wireless broadband and "specialized" services. It comes less than a month after Google and Verizon released a proposal that called for exempting such services from net neutrality rules, while applying them to wireline broadband.

"The FCC continues to kick the can down the road and prolong this process, but the longer the FCC ponders the politics of net neutrality, the longer consumers are left unprotected," Free Press Research Director S. Derek Turner said. "It is time for the FCC to stop writing notices and start making clear rules of the road."

Public Knowledge
President Gigi Sohn said the public notice should not stop the commission from moving forward on FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski's "third way" proposal aimed at solidifying the FCC's authority over broadband providers by reclassifying some aspects of broadband as a telecommunications service. That proposal would allow the FCC to proceed on its open Internet rules.

The commission's authority over broadband providers was put in doubt in April after a federal appeals court ruled the FCC went too far when it tried to enforce network neutrality principles against Comcast.

"Nothing in this public notice prevents the FCC from taking prompt action on its 'Third Way' proceeding, which would make certain all Americans have affordable access to broadband, and to make sure it can deal with public safety and other crucial issues that are broader than the narrow issues on which the Commission seeks comment," Sohn said in a statement.

Media Access Project
Associate Director Matt Wood added that the FCC has sought and received information on the same questions it asked in the latest public notice. "The record demonstrates already that the same framework and openness principles should apply to all broadband access services, even if the rules differ on the basis of legitimate technological differences," he said. "The record also shows that the commission must retain authority over specialized services."

Corporate players were more supportive of the FCC's lastest move on the issue.

"We are happy the chairman and the commissioners realize that wireless is different," CTIA President and CEO Steve Largent said in a statement. "We will continue to work with them to explain why these rules are unnecessary and should not be applied to the wireless ecosystem."

AT&T Senior Executive Vice President Jim Cicconi said his company has "worked hard to find common ground on these difficult issues and feel good progress has been made. In particular, we feel a path can be found that addresses concerns about Internet openness, while at the same time preserving jobs and protecting needed investment."

The FCC Monday released some details - though not much - of a private meeting held on Friday to discuss economic issues related to Comcast's merger with NBC Universal.
Among the few details included in the disclosure document filed with FCC Secretary Marlene H. Dortch was who attended the meeting. The meeting was divided up into two panels with the first focused on multichannel video programming distributors.

The first panel included economists representing Comcast and NBCU: Michael L. Katz, director of the University of California at Berkeley's Center for Telecommunications and Digital Convergence, Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research Deputy Director Gregory L. Rosston and Mark Israel, senior vice president of the economics consulting firm Compass Lexecon.

Critics of the deal also attended including Northwestern University economics professor William P. Rogerson, who representated the American Cable Association, and Bloomberg representative Leslie M. Marx, a Duke University economics professor.

The second panel focused on online issues and included other critics of the deal, according to the disclosure filed by William D. Freedman, associate chief of the FCC's Media Bureau.

Among those on the second panel were Consumer Federation of America Research Director Mark Cooper, Navigant Economics Managing Director Hal Singer, who represented the Communications Workers of America, and University of Southern California economic professor Simon Wilkie, who attended on behalf of Internet service provider Earthlink and the satellite programming provider DISH Network.

Critics assert that the merger will hurt competition and media diversity. Comcast argues that those concerns are misplaced and that the transaction will strengthen marketplace competition and benefit consumers.

The merger is being weighed by both the FCC and the Justice Department.

Tribune Creditors Zero In On Zell

The New York Post

Tribune Chairman Sam Zell's bid for immunity from legal claims arising from the disastrous buyout of the company could be slipping away.

The judge overseeing the Tribune bankruptcy case yesterday appointed a mediator to try to hammer out a settlement after dueling creditor groups failed to agree on a deal.

One of the main sticking points has been whether certain creditors could sue Zell and the banks that financed the leveraged buyout and landed the company in bankruptcy.

"A plan [between the creditor groups] was not emerging that had a decent chance of passing," a source involved in the process said. "It's hard for me to now imagine a scenario where they keep immunity."

US Bankruptcy Judge Kevin Carey is asking Tribune and the banks, including JPMorgan, to deal with junior creditors who believe they should recover some of the $1 billion they are owed.

Zell led an $11.7 billion buyout of the business in 2007, in which he committed only $315 million. Tribune borrowed the rest from Citigroup, JPMorgan and other lenders, saddling the business with a mountain of debt. The company filed for bankruptcy less than a year later.

A court appointed examiner recently found part of the buyout "likely" could have been a fraudulent transfer of assets because the huge debt load put Tribune at such great risk.

Media conglomerate Tribune, which owns the Chicago Tribune and Los Angeles Times, locally operates WPIX television and the Hartford Courant newspaper.

All the creditor groups will send new restructuring proposals to the judge, who will turn them over to a mediator within the next month, a source said.

According to an article in the LA Times by Michael Oneal, the move comes after a company-sponsored reorganization plan unraveled several weeks ago in the wake of an independent examiner's report that criticized elements of Tribune Co.'s disastrous 2007 leveraged buyout.

Efforts to find a new compromise have collapsed amid escalating bickering over legal claims tied to the buyout led by Tribune Co. Chairman Sam Zell.

At Tribune's request, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Kevin J. Carey in Delaware called for a nonbinding mediation process led by his colleague U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Kevin Gross, which was to begin immediately.

Delaware Bankruptcy Judge Kevin Gross was charged with finding a way to resolve legal claims stemming from the disastrous 2007 leveraged buyout that put real estate developer Sam Zell in charge of the Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times and numerous broadcasters.

Less than a year after what Zell has called the "deal from hell," Tribune filed for bankruptcy. The company's plan to get itself out of bankruptcy recently collapsed following an examiner's report.

"We’re pleased that the court has appointed a mediator—this is a clear sign that reaching consensus is a valuable part of this process," Tribune CEO Randy Michaels said in a statement. "We welcome Judge Gross’ participation in the process and we look forward to his wisdom and guidance as we move forward."

As previously reported, Tribune's board of directors has named a special committee to oversee the company’s Chapter 11 process. The committee is composed of four independent directors who joined the board on or after the controversial 2007 leveraged buyout of Tribune engineered by its current chairman, Sam Zell.

There is no set timetable for the process, but each of the parties in the case will have until mid-September to provide Judge Gross with a five-page plan it thinks provides a fair settlement of the legal issues surrounding the 2007 buyout.

Judge Gross, who mediated a deal in the seemingly deadlocked bankruptcy of Semgroup, an energy marketing firm, was given direction to set the time and deadlines for talks.

Judge Carey said the parties to the bankruptcy were not to file motions relating to the leveraged buyout during the mediation, although he said parties were free to file their own reorganization plans.

The bankruptcy became bogged down last month after an independent examiner determined that parts of the Zell deal could be found to be an "intentional fraudulent transfer," potentially disqualifying billions of dollars of senior debt.

That paved the way for junior creditors to demand a bigger slice of the Tribune pie.

Judge Carey's order set places at a crowded negotiating table for Tribune; the unsecured creditors committee; JPMorgan Chase (as agent for the senior lenders to the buyout); hedge fund Angelo, Gordon & Co.; a group of senior lenders led by hedge fund Oaktree Capital Management; a new group of senior lenders represented by New York law firm Olshan Grundman Frome Rosenzweig & Wolosky; owners of the bridge loan debt represented by Wells Fargo Bank; junior creditors led by Law Debenture Trust Co., Centerbridge Credit Advisors and Deutsche Bank Trust Co.; a legal entity controlled by Zell; and a group of junior debt holders led by Wilmington Trust Co.

As a nonbinding mediation, participation is voluntary. Judge Gross will have the power to set the rules and the agenda. He also will be allowed to consult with Kenneth Klee, the Los Angeles lawyer who was the independent examiner in the case.

Mr. Klee's report, issued in late July, is what torpedoed Tribune's reorganization plan. The report partially supported junior creditor claims at the center of the case that Zell's 2007 buyout left Tribune insolvent. Any settlement brokered by Gross will hinge on an agreement to resolve those claims.
The case is In Re Tribune Co, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, District of Delaware, No. 08-13141.