By: Mark Fitzgerald
IN A SUCCESSION struggle that some painted as a fight between the newspaper and broadcast sides of the sprawling Tribune Co., print won.
John Madigan was elected president and chief operating officer of Tribune, an advance that makes the Tribune Publishing Co. chief the heir apparent to chairman and CEO Charles Brumback. Madigan, who currently is Tribune executive vice president as well as Tribune Publishing president and CEO, assumes his new duties May 31.
With the election, announced at Tribune’s annual meeting in Chicago, Madigan, 57, bested James Dowdle, 60, for the spot behind Brumback.
Dowdle, also a Tribune executive vice president, is president and CEO of Tribune Broadcasting Co.
“Your company is the winner in this decision. There are no losers,” Brumback said as he announced the election at the meeting.
Nevertheless, Brumback’s style in disclosing the election winner seemed to underscore the competition between Madigan and Dowdle.
Brumback described the backgrounds of both men ? he began by noting that they were both Marines ? and noted their achievements during their tenure.
During this introduction, a palpable mood of suspense grew among the audience at the elegant Orchestra Hall until at length Brumback revealed that Madigan had been elected that morning.
There was no indication of when Madigan will assume the top spot. Although Brumback has reached the traditional Tribune retirement age of 65, he has indicated that he will not step aside soon.
“I will not give up the CEO position until I’m satisfied that John is ready to take it on,” Brumback said in an interview with Chicago Tribune writer Tim Jones.
The Tribune chief operating officer spot had been vacant since August 1990, when Brumback assumed new duties as president and CEO and Stanton Cook was still chairman. Brumback added the title of chairman Jan. 1, 1993. At the annual meeting, Brumback said the company also had looked outside Tribune for a president and chief operating officer.
While Madigan, who also serves as publisher of the flagship Tribune, most often is identified with the newspaper side of Tribune, he has played a key role in diversifying the company, which now styles itself as “a leading information and entertainment company.”
Indeed, Madigan is no journalist: His last job before joining Tribune in 1975 was as an investment banker.
Under his leadership, Tribune Publishing has moved aggressively into interactive and new media. In recent months, for example, Tribune has acquired Compton’s, a leading publisher on the CD-ROM format, and Contemporary Books. It created Chicago Online and took minority positions in America Online; Peapod, a computer grocery-ordering service; and Picture Network International.
And it was under Madigan that Tribune Publishing changed its name from Tribune Newspaper Co.
Madigan is also not unfamiliar with the entertainment and broadcasting sides of Tribune.
He served as chairman of the Chicago Cubs baseball team during 1987 and 1988, for example.
And Madigan was responsible for getting Tribune’s cable operations up and running. When the company decided not to stay in cable, the systems were sold for a gain that permitted the purchase of KTLA-TV in Los Angeles.
In more routine action at the annual meeting, Madigan and Dowdle were re-elected to new three-year terms on the board of directors. Also re-elected were Diego Hernandez, a management consultant; Robert La Blac, an information technology consultant; and Andrew McKenna, chairman, president and CEO of Schwarz Paper Co., a paper converter.
In remarks to shareholders, Brumback said Tribune has budgeted $200 million for acquisitions in 1994 and earmarked another $90 million for capital expenditures.