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Posts Tagged ‘Sam Zell’

A Closer Look at Dean Baquet

DeanBaquetPicWhen a huge media story like today’s New York Times shake-up breaks, the second place we turn – after Twitter – is the FishbowlNY archives.

It was Wall Street Journal reporter Sarah Ellison who, in the fall of 2006, broke the story of Dean Baquet‘s ouster from the LA Times. When Jones appeared on a KCRW radio show with LAObserved’s Kevin Roderick to chat about it all, they deemed the replacement of Baquet as EIC by James O’Shea to be a victory of “Tribune culture over LAT culture.” Not exactly an auspicious quote all these Sam Zell-years later.

Los Angeles magazine subsequently rounded up five LA Times editors to talk about the state of the Spring Street union. Here’s a quote from Baquet:

“The 20 percent of my time that I spent dealing with a bad publisher — and I mean David Hiller, not Jeffrey Johnson — was not the dominant part of my day. I spent most of my time with a newsroom that really wanted to change and do great stuff. I brainstormed ideas with a staff that wanted leadership, and for a brief moment it seemed as if we could be the best paper in the country.”

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Eli Broad Confirms His Interest in LA Times

Austin Beutner was front and center in LA Weekly‘s recent look at potential LA Times bidders. Tonight, he is connected once again to billionaire Eli Broad and the non-profit vision previously outlined by Hillel Aron.

The big difference is that Broad is now making it official. From The Hollywood Reporter item by west coast business editor Paul Bond:

“Mr. Broad has always believed in local ownership of the Times and would be interested in joining with others to buy the paper,” Broad spokeswoman Karen Denne tells THR.

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Five Takeaways from LA Weekly’s Fabulous LA Times Feature

Timing is everything. Just a few days before this week’s LA Weekly article “Who Will Buy the LA Times?” by Hillel Aron, CNBC broke the news that JPMorgan and Evercore will be handling the sale of the paper and other Tribune Co. assets.

That context gives the piece some extra urgency, and from this excellent bit of work by Aron, we were most struck by the following:

Richest Man in LA vs. Richest Man in the World: Aron references Patrick Soon-Shiong (pictured) in connection with former mayoral candidate Austin Beutner’s effort to put together a stealth group of combined LAT buyers. Surprisingly (at least to us), nowhere in the article does Carlos Slim come up, the man responsible for the relaunch of Larry King and much more. Aron confirms to FishbowlLA that it was not a case of being edited out; “no one ever mentioned Slim,” the writer says.

Two Shades of WSJ: The article characterizes Rupert Murdoch as the man who could potentially outbid everyone, with media expert Ken Doctor telling Aron the Wall Street Journal owner remains the odds-on favorite to acquire the newspaper. Doctor also thinks the two publications’ editorial and ad operations could be streamlined in a number of intriguing ways.

Which is perhaps ironic, because Aron also reminds that Times publisher and Tribune Co. CEO Eddie Hartenstein took a lot of flack internally for his decision to allow the Journal to print at the LAT, bumping the paper’s daily schedule down and “ruining its time-zone advantage over east coast papers.”

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It’s Official: Tribune Company Emerges from Bankruptcy

Reuters reporters Ronald Grover and Liana B. Baker had the scoop last Friday about New Year’s Eve being the day LA Times parent company Tribune Co. would finally, officially emerge from a four-year bankruptcy. This morning at 4:42 a.m. PT, LAT reporters Walter Hamilton and Joe Flint added circumspect confirmation in the paper’s own pages:

The company sought Bankruptcy Court protection in December 2008 after an $8.2 billion leveraged buyout by real estate magnate Sam Zell saddled the company with $12.9 billion in total debt just as advertising revenue was collapsing…

Despite the financial travails of the newspaper industry, Tribune remained profitable throughout the bankruptcy. It built cash reserves of more than $2.5 billion as of November 18, according to a U.S. Bankruptcy Court filing this month.

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Tribune Co. Set to Receive Critical FCC Waivers

Interesting tidbit from LA Times DC reporter Jim Puzzanghera.

Barring an unforeseen and very unlikely objection from one or more of the Federal Communications Commission’s five commissioners, some very critical regional media market waivers will be granted by the FCC on Friday. The waivers reaffirm the Tribune Company’s right to own radio, TV and newspaper outlets in the same market:

The FCC has told commissioners it plans to grant Tribune’s new owners a permanent waiver for the company’s longtime ownership of the Chicago Tribune newspaper and WGN radio and television stations in the Chicago market.

The staff also plans to give one-year waivers for the Tribune’s ownership of the Los Angeles Times and KTLA-TV Channel 5 and for similar arrangements in New York, southern Florida and Hartford, Conn.

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Tribune Company to Finally Emerge From Bankruptcy

After more than three years, U.S. Bankruptcy judge Kevin Carey has officially signed off on a plan for Tribune Company to emerge from bankruptcy. According to the Chicago Tribune, the media company will soon be in the hands of a conglomerate of senior investors, led by the LA-based investment fund Oaktree Capital Management.

Looks like we won’t have old Sam Zell to pick on anymore…Or won’t we? Apparently, the Tribune Co. legal fireworks aren’t over yet.

From the Chicago Tribune:

Junior creditors led by New York investment fund Aurelius Capital Management have said they plan to appeal the decision issued in Delaware by U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Kevin Carey. But few experts expect appeals to gain traction because of the careful way Carey fashioned his confirmation opinion.

Instead, junior creditors will likely shift their attention a federal district court in New York where they are suing 35,000 former Tribune Co. shareholders who cashed out in the company’s 2007 leveraged buyout, certain current and former Tribune Co. directors and officers as well as Sam Zell, the deal’s architect. The litigation could keep the controversy surrounding the litigation alive in the courts for years.

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Sam Zell Officially at the Bottom of Tribune Creditor List

Not sure if this is a score for the little guys, or just a big FU to the big guy, but either way we feel pretty good about it. U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Kevin Carey ruled this week that Sam Zell is officially last on the Tribune Company’s list of creditors as it emerges from Chapter 11 status–behind $759 million worth of claims from other holders of “Phones” notes.

From the Wall Street Journal:

Mr. Zell put only $315 million of his own money at risk in the deal. In recent litigation, his investment venture attempted to get equal footing with other low-ranking creditors when it comes to sharing recovery, on the basis of a claim for $225 million. The attempt failed.

Judge Carey’s conclusions, issued Monday in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Wilmington, Del., set the stage for a June 7 effort by the media company to win confirmation of a Chapter 11 plan and get out of bankruptcy after more than three years.

Couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy. Too bad someone couldn’t have put Zell in his place before he destroyed one of the most important media empires in America.

Sam Zell Wants a Bigger Piece of the Tribune Pie

Sam Zell has been relatively quiet in the past year or so; his years of bravado helming the Tribune Company almost seem like a distant memory. Errr…almost.

You knew that couldn’t last.

Bloomberg reports that Zell officially wants a piece of all monies won by unsecured creditors in the Tribune bankruptcy case–including those of former employees.

The demand, made through the Zell-controlled company EGI TRB LLC, came in one of the disputes being heard in bankruptcy court over how to split any money creditors win in dozens of lawsuits over claims the buyout was a fraud on creditors. U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Kevin Carey began a two-day hearing today about the disputes.

“In the ultimate display of chutzpah, Zell and EGI are asserting that their tainted claims should now be treated on par with innocent creditors who had nothing to do with the LBO,” a group of about 185 retired managers and other highly paid former employees said in court papers.

We’d like to commend the group of former employees for their “ultimate display” of restraint in forgoing the use of any four-letter words in describing Zell.

Sam Zell Unrepentant for Ravaging of Tribune Co.

Even for an article in the real estate section of the New York Times, the subject of Sam Zell‘s spectacular mismanagement of the Tribune Co. is unavoidable. And the diminutive mogul is happy to flap his gums on the topic, denying any responsibility for the largest media bankruptcy in American history:

Zell does not blame the heavy debt burden for Tribune’s failure, but rather the precipitous dive in newspaper advertising that occurred just after he bought the media company and the staff’s intransigence. “I’m disappointed that I wasn’t able to convince the people that it was in their own interest to modify the way in which the business ran, so as to be profitable,” he said.

That’s the same decline in advertising that affected every single newspaper in this country, the vast majority of which didn’t go bankrupt. That was the problem? That and the uppity staff? Yeesh.

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Sam Zell May Have Bankrupted Tribune Co, but He’s Still Got Some Money Left for Karl Rove

Interesting little tidbit from an LA Times piece on Karl Rove‘s “American Crossroads” super PAC–which has brought in $18.4 million from wealthy oligarchs in the past year. Guess who’s name turned up on the 2011 donor roster?

The end of the year tally  included $100,000 from Sam Zell, whose properties include the Tribune Co., owner of the Los Angeles Times and the Chicago Tribune, among other papers.

It gets better. Guess what Zell’s money is helping to buy? Videos like this one, attacking President Obama’s track record on jobs and unemployment. Isn’t that just the cow’s knockers? Incompetent billionaire bankrupts a company, lays off thousands, and then has the sack to spent a reporter’s salary or two funding political attack ads accusing Obama of devastating the middle class.

Watch Zell’s video after the jump if you feel like retching.

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