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Zell Watch

Chicago Tribune Editor Resigns

Richard Prince is reporting (fourth item down) that Ann Marie Lipinski has resigned from her post as editor of the Chicago Tribune, where she has worked since she was a summer intern in 1978.

Lipinski doesn’t name Sam Zell as the reason for her departure — in fact, she’s careful not to poison the well at all. In one of the classiest resignation letters we’ve ever seen, she tells the staff only “professionally, this position is not the fit it once was.”


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Portfolio Takes Sam Zell to Task for Boob Jokes, Being a Boob

In an open letter to Sam Zell, Portfolio writer Jeff Bercovici implores Zell to hire a speech writer to punch up the “zany” press releases he puts out on the wires.


“Take this latest release, announcing the hiring of Tim Dukes as vice president of promotions for broadcast and interactive:

Sean Compton, the SVP/programming for our broadcasting division, and I wanted one special person to lead our national promotional efforts online and on-air and to complement the existing product pros at Tribune,” said Marc Chase, Tribune Interactive president. “When that person wasn’t available, we went to Tim instead.”

Really, Sam? A giant conglomerate full of professional writers and producers, and the best you can come up with is material Henny Youngman cut from his bar mitzvah speech?

Jeff goes on…

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BREAKING: Zell’s in LA

Word is Sam Zell is in LA today demanding more cuts. Rumor is a LOT more but no one has a decent number or whether any specific area is supposed to be slashed or not.

Zell on CNBC Today


Watch it here.

Sam Zell – mogul? Real estate tycoon? Cartoon character? Hmm….

Will Sam Zell Sell The Seats Right Out From Under Reporters?

Looks as though LAT and Chicago Tribune staffers might be forced out of their homes — or at least forced to share their space. Sam Zell‘s staff memo:


When we started this adventure together, I made a point of saying we would challenge traditional thinking, that there would be no sacred cows, and that we would do everything possible to maximize the value of our assets.

With those objectives in mind, we are in the process of asking a number of real estate firms to give us their best thinking on how we can generate more value from Tribune Tower in Chicago, and the Times Mirror Square complex in Los Angeles.

We’ll be considering numerous options to maximize the value of these properties. While a near-term transaction is possible, we’ll be focusing on opportunities that allow for some level of ongoing occupancy in both buildings for the mid-term (defined as five years), for farther out (15 years), and beyond.

Most importantly, we are not rushing this process, and I can assure you we will not accept anything but full market value for these assets. As we made clear on our first quarter earnings call, Tribune has sufficient liquidity to satisfy our principal amortization requirements through 2008, due to the proceeds we will realize from the Newsday transaction, and from our plans to create an asset-backed commercial paper program.

Our request for proposals, which is being issued today, is likely to generate media attention and debate about what we should or should not do with the properties. Both Tribune Tower and Times Mirror Square are iconic structures, deeply intertwined with the history of this company. But, they are also both under-utilized, and as employee-owners, it’s in our best interests to maximize the value of all our assets.

We will keep you posted as we solidify our plans, so don’t get distracted by speculation. Let’s keep our eye on the ball.


Tell Zell Launches

We were tipped off to this site. It’s kind of like AngryJournalist – but
Sam Zell

InkStainedRetch’s description of her/himself:

Right before our eyes, Sam Zell is dismantling one of America’s great newspapers. As a loyal peon of the Los Angeles Times, the InkStainedRetch is dedicated to exposing and reversing his destructive campaign. The InkStainedRetch desperately, urgently believes in journalism, nut grafs and other good stuff. Let’s not go down without a fight. If you want to add your voice, email me at InkStainedRetch at Correspondents take note: It’s Retch, not Wretch. I’ll do everything possible to protect the guilty. Necessarily anonymous. Necessarily true.

Just imagine us raising our fists in solidarity.

Zell Continues to Piss Off Cubs Fans

From Chicago Business:

Tribune Co. CEO Sam Zell‘s plan to sell the Cubs and Wrigley Field separately is driving down the value of the team, some observers say.

To entice real estate investors to bid on Wrigley, Mr. Zell estimates an owner of the park can charge the Cubs $25 million a year, a sum considerably higher than rents for comparable teams.

Mr. Zell is trying to squeeze every dollar he can out of a sale of the Cubs and its 94-year-old ballpark. Some analysts have pegged the price of the Cubs, the park and related assets at $1 billion — money the Tribune desperately needs in the face of looming debt payments and declining newspaper revenue. But the pricey rent would be a burden on any new owner, who might struggle to keep up with payroll and other operating costs.

It’s like he bought a really nice house and his plan is make it into a duplex and double the rent…only he refuses to build another kitchen.

Harold Meyerson Calls For Sam Zell to Be Locked Away

Sam Zell .jpgThis was how Harold Meyerson‘s column today started:

On Oct. 1, 1910, a bomb set by James McNamara, an operative of the Iron Workers union, then embroiled in a ferocious dispute with the Los Angeles Times, blew up the Times building, killing 21 pressmen. McNamara was arrested the following April, convicted and later sentenced to life in prison. He died in San Quentin in 1941.

The question for today is: Would a similar sentence be appropriate for Sam Zell?

Zell, for those of you fortunate enough not to follow news of the newspaper business, is the Chicago real estate magnate who last year purchased the Tribune Co., which owns the Times, the Chicago Tribune and a number of smaller papers. At the rate he’s going, he’s well on his way to accomplishing a feat that McNamara didn’t even contemplate: destroying the L.A. Times.

Brilliant. Our thanks for the tip!

Reporters and Editors React to Sam Zell’s Announcement

angrymobrep.jpgUnsurprisingly, they’re pissed:

“I think the thing that really hit, and I think frankly was a low blow, is that if you’ve got a problem with the productivity of individual reporters then you go to the managers and say, we think there’s a problem here and since you’re running this paper you should deal with this,” a reporter said.

“To say in a public way without consulting with the editors that they’ve got slackers here is …” the reporter added, before pausing and following with an obscenity.

Sam Zell Is Sticking to Original Recipe Newspapering

samzell_6.jpgAs our sister site FBNY has noted, Sam Zell‘s cost-cutting, paper-shrinking, job-eliminating formula for increasing revenue has been done before. By the very people who drove the Tribune Co. into the ground and then sold the bloody pulpy mess to Zell.

But our favorite new/old trick is the byline count. We were subject to the byline count as a measure of our worth in a previous life, and we know just how much of a morale-booster this can be. Not to mention that people who do things like bring down nefarious leaders, expose institutional wrongs and protect the public good generally don’t churn out copy with the frequency of an obit writer.

Well, if anyone at the LAT is discouraged enough, we might soon be looking for a third blogger…