Parent of 2 Florida papers goes Chapter 11
As anticipated, the Tribune Co., the newspaper and TV chain that publishes the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune and Florida's Orlando Sentinel and the South Florida Sun-Sentinel in Fort Lauderdale, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on Monday. Here's a New York Times update. (The Chicago Cubs, also owned by the Tribune, are not part of the bankruptcy action.)
The move came less than a year after Chicago real estate tycoon Sam Zell took control of the Tribune chain and took on most of the $13-billion debt burden that now threatens to cripple it in the face of a sinking economy and a collapse in advertising. More on his clever move below.
Here's how Fort Lauderdale's Howard Greenberg, publisher of the Sun-Sentinel, tries to explain the bankruptcy move of his parent company to readers. It is, how shall we say this, light on painful detail and heavy on reassurance:
"What does all this mean for our readers, viewers and advertisers? As a practical matter, very little. Tribune is continuing to operate its media businesses, including its newspapers, television stations and websites. And, at SunSentinel.com, we remain dedicated to providing you with the level of service and news coverage you've come to expect from us every day.
"This restructuring is in Tribune's best long-term interest. It will reduce pressure on our operating businesses, enabling us to pursue our vision of creating a sustainable, cutting-edge media company that is valued by our readers, viewers and advertisers, and that plays a vital role in the communities we serve. That, in turn, will help keep this newspaper showing up at your home and at your local newsstand every day, offering you news, information and entertainment you can't get anywhere else. It's what you expect and what we'll continue to deliver. We remain committed to serving South Florida."
As for any comment on the bankruptcy situation from the Orlando Sentinel, well, if it's online at the paper's Web site I can't find it. But at least their opinion page does endorse a bankruptcy restructuring (with federal loans) of the Big Three auto makers.
As for Zell, he could lose a small fraction of his estimated $5-billion fortune, explains a Business Week story. The reason: The man who likes to call himself "the grave dancer" put very little of his own skin in the game. Instead, employees of the Tribune properties will bear the brunt of the pain, as they technically own the company and hold its $12.9-billion in debt. Tribune reported $7.6-billion in assets.Stay tuned.
-- Robert Trigaux, Times Business Columnist