McCormick Foundation: We Like Tribune Management

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By: E&P Staff

The McCormick Tribune Foundation’s decision to hire the buyout consultants Blackstone Group to advise it on what to do with its big stake in Tribune Co. does not mean the charity named for legendary Chicago Tribune Publisher Col. Robert McCormick has lost confidence in the media giant’s top management.

In a statement late Thursday, the foundation said its appointment of an advisory committee of two retired Tribune executives had been misunderstood by some analysts.

“The establishment of the advisory committee was legally driven and should in no way be construed as a reflection on the management of Tribune Company,” the foundation said. “In fact, the advisory committee continues to have complete confidence in Tribune Company management.?

In a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Thursday, the foundation and a related charity, Cantigny Foundation, said it had hired Blackstone to advise it on what to do with its 11.7% stake in Tribune while the company mulls strategic options including the sale of all or some of its media properties. (Blackstone Group is part of a consortium that owns VNU, E&P’s corporate parent.)

The advisory committee consists of former Chairman and CEO John W. Madigan and James C. Dowdle, who headed up Tribune’s broadcast division before retiring. The three other directors of the foundation are part of Tribune management, including Chairman and CEO Dennis FitzSimons.

“The process by which the foundation established the advisory committee … is a well established and customary legal procedure,” the McCormick Foundation said. “This occurs in situations where some of the directors have related party interests. All of the directors of the McCormick Tribune Foundation were in total agreement to establish the advisory committee and that the three members of Tribune Company management should recuse themselves from the advisory committee’s deliberations.”

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