Once Buttoned-Down Tribune Co. Issues April Fool’s ‘Name Change’

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By: E&P Staff

Rock ‘n’ roll memos, off-color jokes at get-acquainted meetings, and now the latest evidence of the culture change new Chairman Sam Zell is bringing to Tribune Co. — an April Fools press release Tuesday announcing the venerable media giant is changing its name to “ZellCoMediaEnterprises Inc.” or ZCMEINC.

“Zell, who made a fortune in real estate before deciding he’d like to dabble in an industry completely unfamiliar to him, announced the change in his record-setting 437th email to exhausted employees this year,” said the press release.

The bogus release — issued by Tribune spokesman Gary Weitman (or, as he styles himself in the piece, “VP/Propaganda and Disinformation”) — quotes Zell as saying since he personally invested $315 million, “the least I ought to get is my name on the company’s stationery.”

Referring to Zell’s controversial musings that he might sell naming rights to Wrigley Field, the release announced a $600 million deal to rename its Tribune Tower headquarters in Chicago.

“Just to remind employees of how important it is that the company increase revenue in order to meet its considerable debt payments, the company has installed debt-o-meters at each of its business units and on the company web site, www.tribune.com,” the release said.

The release also features satiric quotes from Randy Michaels, a longtime Zell associate who is now Tribune’s executive vice president of the company’s broadcasting and internet divisions and who, according to the release, is “also fooling around with newspapers.”

As part of the gag, Tribune also redid the home page www.tribune.com of its corporate Web site as if it were really renamed ZCMEINC.

Asked from just how high on up the corporate ladder came the permission to go with the April Fool’s joke, real-life Tribune spokesman Weitman told E&P only: “High.”

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