GO
Loading...

Tribune Board Looks Ready to Oust Chief Executive

The board of directors of the Tribune Company is expected to ask Tuesday for the resignation of Randy Michaels, the controversial chief executive of the company, according to a person directly involved in the matter.

The individual, who spoke on the condition of not being identified, said the board had lost confidence in the ability of Mr. Michaels to lead the troubled company.

Mr. Michael’s resignation would follow by days the exit of another top executive at the media company, Lee Abrams, Tribune’s chief innovation officer, who resigned on Friday after sending a sexually explicit memo to the entire company.

Mr. Michaels became chief executive of Tribune in December, about two years after joining the company as an executive vice president in charge of the company’s broadcasting and interactive businesses.

Prior to Tribune, Mr. Michaels had a long and lucrative career in the radio industry, having worked for Jacor Communications and Clear Channel Communications. Jacor was owned and eventually sold by Sam Zell, the Chicago real estate magnate who bought Tribune in 2007.

Tribune, which publishes The Chicago Tribune and The Los Angeles Times and operates several television stations, filed for bankruptcy in December 2008, less than a year after the company was acquired by Mr. Zell, the Chicago real estate tycoon, for $8.2 billion.

After that deal, the company sold Newsday to Cablevisionfor more than $600 million, and the Chicago Cubsto the Ricketts family, the founders of the online brokerage Ameritrade, for more than $800 million, to pay down debt.

The company remains mired in bankruptcy court in Delaware, with legal fees now over $180 million, but it said last week it had reached a tentative deal with a group of lenders. Some major creditors remain absent from a pact that would end the company’s Chapter 11 proceedings, however.

Mr. Michaels, born Benjamin Homel, began his broadcast career as an engineer at his college radio station at the State University of New York at Fredonia in the early 1970s. In 1975, he went commercial, joining the Taft Broadcasting Company’s radio and television operations in Buffalo and taking on his disc jockey alias.

In 1983, Mr. Michaels moved with Taft to Cincinnati, where the broadcasting company was based. He met Robert Lawrence, and the two broadcasters teamed up and started Seven Hills Communications, which later became Republic Broadcasting.

Jacor acquired Republic in 1986, with Mr. Michaels assuming the position as vice president of programming and co-chief operating officer. He was named president and chief operating officer after Mr. Zell acquired the company in 1993. Mr. Michaels was named chief executive three years later.

Clear Channel Communications acquired Jacor in 1999, and Mr. Michaels became Clear Channel’s division president and later, chief executive; he was pushed out in 2002, in part because of concerns over lawsuits and workplace issues.

When and if Tribune emerges from bankruptcy, it will apparently proceed with new management. Mr. Michaels, who came to the company with a broad mandate for change, alienated many of the company’s employees and some of its advertisers with a nontraditional approach, including many tactics borrowed from radio.

Under Mr. Michaels, Tribune, a formerly conservative media company, became known for rugged, profane talk from executives, long, incomprehensible memos from management, and an atmosphere that was depicted in widely published photos of a poker party in the executive offices of Tribune Towers.

After a series of negative reports, including one this month in The New York Times, along with the departure of Mr. Abrams, the board has apparently decided that new leadership is needed.