Report: Tribune Co.?s Biggest Creditors Wooing Former Disney Chief Eisner

By: E&P Staff

Tribune Co.’s biggest creditors are in discussions to bring in former Walt Disney Co. CEO Michael D. Eisner to lead the Chicago media giant once it emerges from Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization, The Los Angeles Times reported.

The Times said Eisner is “among the candidates” under consideration to replace Sam Zell, the real estate magnate who engineered its disastrous leverage buyout, as chairman.

“Under one scenario being discussed by the senior creditors, Eisner, who is 68, would be joined by Jeff Shell, a former News Corp. cable executive who is now in top management at Comcast Corp., according to four people with knowledge of the talks. Shell would become chief executive of Tribune, replacing Randy Michaels,” the L.A. Times reported in an article by Dawn C. Chmielewski, Michael Oneal and Sallie Hofmeister.

The newspaper noted Eisner told Variety in an interview Monday that he is among the people buying up Tribune debt.  “You are talking to somebody who is buying debt in the Tribune Co. The salvation of the newspaper is some kind of pay arrangement [online], which will evolve into something significant,” Eisner said in the interview.

The previous reorganization plan crafted by Tribune Co. management collapsed last week, with its biggest creditors dropping their support and the company warning it might submit a take-it-or-leave-it plan by Friday.

Negotiations continue, according to reports, with those very large creditors: JPMorgan Chase and the hedge funds Angelo, Gordon & Co. and Oaktree Capital Management.

The Times, citing unnamed “people familiar with the matter,” said  others who have been approached to take a lead role in Tribune include Fred Reynolds, the retired chief financial officer of CBS Corp.; Mel Karmazin, chief executive of Sirius XM Radio Inc.; Terry S. Semel, former chairman and co-chief executive of Warner Bros.; and Robert Pittman, former chief operating officer of AOL Time Warner.

The Times noted John Angelo, CEO of the Angelo, Gordon hedge fund is a childhood friend of Eisner’s.

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