Thursday, June 16, 2011
Former Editor O'Shea Dishes on Tribune's Travails
"The Deal From Hell: How Moguls and Wall Street Plundered Great American Newspapers" echoes Tribune owner Zell's own description of his $8.5-billion purchase of Tribune Co. in 2007.
But, according to a story by Shia K at chicagobusiness.com, O'Shea says the real "deal from hell" was Tribune's "shotgun marriage" to Times Mirror Co., parent company of the Los Angeles Times. Cultural differences marred the merger, which saddled Tribune with unexpected tax liabilities and increased its stake in print media just before the industry fell into a steep delcine. The longtime Tribune editor served briefly as Los Angeles Times editor before stepping down in a clash with management over staff cuts.
His account of Mr. Zell's purchase of the Tribune begins on page 253. Calling the real-estate mogul an "uncouth clown," he recounts Mr. Zell's well-known penchant for profanity. He also describes the back-room deal-making behind the transaction that gave Mr. Zell control of Tribune with a relatively small investment. Zell attorney William Pate came up with the plan to use an employee stock ownership plan to finance the takeover. Tribune board Chairman Bill Osborn, former CEO of Chicago-based Northern Trust Corp., liked the idea, Mr. O'Shea reports.
He aims some of his harshest criticism at former Tribune CEO Dennis FitzSimons and current Editor Gerry Kern.
Mr. Michaels chipped away at all things related to the newspaper's history. And Mr. O'Shea retells a few stories already reported, such as that infamous poker game with top executives in the regal office once occupied by legendary Tribune Publisher Col. Robert McCormick.
But there's also the story about "the million-dollar idea." To motivate employees to offer up good ideas during a time of layoffs and budget cuts, Mr. Michaels had $1 million in cash brought in by way of a Brinks truck "so they could put it on the floor and people could roll around in it and get their picture taken," according to an employee.
Posted by Tom Benson at 12:10 AM