UPDATE: Chicago ‘Trib’ Publisher Exits, Does Not Blame Zell

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By: Joe Strupp

Chicago Tribune Publisher Scott Smith, 57, has announced his retirement, according to a memo to employees obtained by E&P on Thursday. It follows by less than a week revelations of major cutbacks coming up at Tribune papers, including page count.

Smith is also president of Tribune Publishing. The memo follows below, along with a memo from Randy Michaels, the COO.

In its Friday edition, the Tribune relates, “News of Smith’s imminent departure after more than 30 years with Tribune Co. comes just one week after Zell and Chief Operating Officer Randy Michaels announced sweeping plans to redesign Tribune Co.’s papers and reduce the number of pages in response to worse-than-expected publishing revenue declines.

“But in an interview, Smith said that move didn’t precipitate his departure. He had never intended to stay beyond assisting the Zell team with its transition, and this seemed an opportune time to move on. ‘If there’s going to be the next new wave of important changes, it’s important that those decisions be made by people who are going to own the outcomes and that frankly wasn’t my likely time horizon,’ said Smith, 57, who began his second stint as Chicago Tribune publisher in 2006.

“‘We’ve got to be aggressive and try very aggressive things. I’m all for that,’ Smith said. ‘But exactly which things to try and what pace you can do them at, while serving customers well, has to be determined.'”

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From: Smith, Scott C.
Sent: Thursday, June 12, 2008 3:01 PM
Subject: My Decision to Retire

Colleagues,

I want to let you know that I will retire as publisher of the Chicago Tribune and president of Tribune Publishing once a successor for my Chicago Tribune CEO role is selected. Sam, Randy and I agree it?s time for new leadership to lead the next wave of market driven change in our business.

When the new Tribune era began last December, I committed to focus on my Chicago Tribune duties and facilitate the best possible transition for the company overall. The new era has brought fresh perspectives that I sought to blend effectively with established Tribune strengths, starting with the very talented people steadfastly dedicated to our success. While views and styles clearly differ, we all share the same fundamental goals. As Sam put it, we need to go for greatness built on relevance, revenue and respect, plus generate enough cash flow to pay our debt and create equity value. As tough as market conditions are, I remain confident you will do all you can to best achieve these objectives.

I am proud of all we have accomplished over my 30 years with this extraordinary enterprise. Together we created a lot of value for our customers, communities, owners and each other, navigating major changes in markets, media and the news each day along the way. It has been a profound privilege and pleasure to serve as publisher of the Tribune for the final portion of my career. We expanded our leading position in Chicagoland and among major metropolitan papers in many important ways. Looking forward, you are well prepared to advance the Chicago Tribune and our related media here for the benefit of all we serve.

Thanks for the great honor of serving with you. I will always be a fan and friend.

Best, Scott

****

After 30 years with Tribune Company in a variety of roles, Scott Smith has decided to retire. Scott has had an extraordinary career, beginning in the finance department in 1977. He served as the company?s chief financial officer, headed up the corporate development department, and was publisher of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel and the Chicago Tribune?twice. In January 2005 he became president of our publishing group. And he?s enjoyed the admiration and respect of his colleagues everywhere he?s been.

Scott?s career has really come full circle. He was instrumental in helping Tribune go public in 1983, and in helping to guide it through the going-private transaction last year. More recently, he?s been helpful as we implement our plans for the future.

Scott will be staying on to help us with the transition to his successor, who we expect to name soon. Attached is Scott?s email to employees at the Chicago Tribune, announcing his plans. Please join me in thanking Scott for all of his efforts on behalf of the company.

Randy


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