Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Nils Larsen becomes Tribune Broadcasting CEO, Jerry Kersting exits as president

By Phil Rosenthal
Chicago Tribune
May 31, 2011

Nils Larsen, chairman of Tribune Co.'s broadcast division since October, today was named chief executive of Tribune Broadcasting, which is streamlining its upper management.

Effective immediately, Larsen, 40, will take on duties that previously belonged to Jerry Kersting, 61, who exits as broadcasting president, a position that is being eliminated. Larsen remains chief investment officer of Tribune Co., parent of the Chicago Tribune, the Los Angeles Times, WGN-Ch. 9, WGN America, WGN-AM 720 and other media outlets across the country.

"Nils is the right person to lead our broadcasting operations," Eddy Hartenstein, Tribune Co.’s CEO and publisher of the Los Angeles Times, said in the announcement. "He’s thoughtful, creative, and has the vision necessary to maximize the effectiveness of the group."

Larsen is a close associate of Tribune Co. Chairman Sam Zell. Previously managing director of Zell's Equity Group Investments, Larsen joined the company in 2008. He has overseen Tribune Co.'s business development and investments and helped in the company's restructuring in his role as chief investment officer.

In October, after the resignation of Tribune Co. CEO Randy Michaels, Larsen added the title of Tribune Broadcasting chairman and was one of four executives on the council that ran the parent company until Hartenstein, another member of the now-dissolved executive council, was named chief executive of the Chicago-based media conglomerate.

Hartenstein said in a note to employees this morning that, through April, Tribune Broadcasting's revenue and cash flow were "up significantly" compared to the same span a year earlier.

Kersting had been president of Tribune Broadcasting since May 2010, promoted after five months as its chief operating officer when Ed Wilson resigned the post.

Before joining Tribune Co. as an executive vice president in April 2008. Kersting spent nine years as executive vice president/chief financial officer of Clear Channel Radio -- which used to be run by Michaels -- and had 34 years of credited service with Clear Channel and related companies.

At the time of his appointment as president, Kersting expressed a desire "to shake up" TV news. "Every night, people turn on their local news and see the same thing wherever they flip the channel," Kersting said. "We intend to change that."

Under Kersting, the station launched a pair of pilot news programs in Houston. One is a newsreel-style, anchorless broadcast that aired evenings. The other is a morning news and entertainment program originating largely from Chicago that could be syndicated to other markets.

This fall, Tribune Co. is launching a New York-based syndicated daytime talk show starring controversial Cincinnati radio host Bill Cunningham.

"Our broadcasting operations are led by gifted people who know their customers and local communities very well," Larsen said in a statement. "We’ve been expanding local news, developing new original programming and making smart decisions with our syndicated programming, which is driving ratings and resonating with advertisers. We have momentum and there’s a lot more opportunity ahead."

Larsen attracted attention in 2008 for his role as a liaison between Tribune Co. and the Blagojevich administration when the company was weighing a possible deal with the state of Illinois for Wrigley Field. Those discussions were notable for the allegation that former Gov. Rod Blagojevich wanted a critical Chicago Tribune editorial writer fired while his cooperation was being sought.

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