Reporting Bob Conway
UPDATED: 10/20/10 9:34 a.m.
CHICAGO (WBBM/CBS/AP) – There is word Wednesday morning that Randy Michaels, the Tribune Company chief executive officer, is poised to resign.
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The report appears in the Chicago Tribune–which is owned by the parent Tribune Company–and quotes sources as saying Michaels will be gone by week’s end.
It would be the culmination of various controversies including assertions of Michaels’ fostering a “frat house atmosphere” at the iconic Tribune Tower and overseeing a sexist and hostile work environment.
A spokesman for the company did not immediately return calls seeking comment.
According to the Tribune report, Michaels and the board of directors concluded the unrest was distracting employees, threatening to hurt finances and interfering with efforts to have the company emerge from bankruptcy.
Adding to the pressure, the paper reports, were concerns of board members that they might be exposed to any legal fallout stemming from alleged improper behavior.
The Chicago Tribune reported Wednesday that Michaels will be replaced by a four-member committee that will lead the company until its new owners take control following the Chapter 11 case.
The committee will reportedly include Eddy Hartenstein, publisher of the Los Angeles Times; Tony Hunter, publisher of the Chicago Tribune Media Group; Nils Larsen, Tribune Co. chief investment officer; and Don Liebentritt, the company’s chief restructuring officer.
Last week, Tribune chief innovation officer Lee Abrams resigned his job after sending an inappropriate e-mail.
Abrams sent staff an e-mail on Oct. 13 with links to an assortment of raunchy videos. One of the video links was labeled “Sluts,” and featured a gyrating woman who appeared to pour liquor over her bare breasts, Tribune columnist Phil Rosenthal reported.
Shortly before that, the Tribune Co. was the subject of a withering New York Times article earlier this month that portrayed the corporate culture of the Chicago-based media giant as a “frat house.”
The New York Times article by David Carr cited several current former Tribune executives and staffers, who claimed that Tribune Co. chief executive officer Randy Michaels and his executives had “shocked and offended people throughout the company” with their “use of sexual innuendo, poisonous workplace banter and profane invective.”
Among the more shocking claims in the article were a quote by one executive that Michaels had offered a waitress $100 to bear her breasts at a formal business dinner, and a report previously disseminated by media columnist Robert Feder about a party for senior management with cigars and poker tables in the former office of Tribune baron Col. Robert R. McCormick.
The New York Times report also mentioned numerous criticisms of real estate mogul Sam Zell’s deal to take the Tribune Co. private, and of changes at WGN radio – particularly the hiring of former city clerk and convicted felon Jim Laski for a talk show.
Michaels, a veteran of the radio industry, pushed back in a memo to employees the night before the story was published in the Oct. 6 edition of the Times, saying, “Our culture is NOT about being offensive or hurtful.”
The company owns the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune and other media properties and is struggling to win approval for its reorganization after filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
Sam Zell, the Chicago real estate magnate, took the company private in 2007 in a deal that loaded the company with debt just as the worst advertising slump in memory slammed into the newspaper industry.
The complicated deal has come under intense scrutiny from Tribune Co.’s creditors during the Chapter 11 case.
The next few weeks will be critical as Tribune Co. looks to win support for a new reorganization plan.
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