UPDATE: FitzSimons To Exit Tribune Co. As Deal Nears

By: E&P Staff

Tribune Co. Chairman and Chief Executive Dennis J. FitzSimons is expected to announce his resignation as early as today, Tribune’s Los Angeles Times reports this morning. The company expects its turnover to Sam Zell later this week.

FitzSimons, 57, a 25-year veteran of Tribune, “is in line to walk away with as much as $40 million, depending on the date on which he chooses to depart, according to corporate disclosure statements,” the Times reports.

“Zell is expected to complete his takeover of Chicago-based Tribune, the parent of The Times, Thursday or Friday. The company will then be owned by an employee stock ownership plan created for the purpose, with Zell installed as chairman.

“It was unclear Tuesday when FitzSimons’ resignation would become effective or whether other members of his management team were also preparing to announce their departures. A Tribune spokesman declined to comment.

“FitzSimons’ resignation is not surprising, given the differences in his and Zell’s management styles. Under FitzSimons, Tribune has had a highly centralized management structure; Zell is known for an entrepreneurial approach. Zell is expected to reduce corporate overhead by delegating more operational decisions to executives at individual business units.”

The Chicago Tribune today reports: “Tribune Co. executives were sweating out aggressive last-minute questioning Tuesday from bankers reluctant to fund the final portion of a debt-laden $8.2 billion deal to take the company private with Chicago billionaire Sam Zell, sources close to the company said.

“The Chicago-based media giant was still hoping to finalize its transaction by Thursday, but sources said the banks, worried about losing money on the deal in skittish credit markets, were scouring company records before committing to fund the transaction.”

Tribune released a statement at midday on Wednesday. It follows.
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Tribune Company announced today that Dennis FitzSimons will step down as chairman and chief executive officer immediately after the company completes its going-private transaction. FitzSimons will leave the company at the end of the year.

?I am proud to have been part of Tribune for more than 25 years,? said FitzSimons. ?The company?s greatest strength has always been the talent and dedication of its 20,000 employees. I thank them for their commitment to serving our readers, viewers, listeners and advertisers….

?Sam Zell is an entrepreneur with a phenomenal track record,? added FitzSimons. ?He has made a significant investment in Tribune that indicates his strong belief in the value of the company?s media assets. It was Sam?s creativity, personal commitment and investment that made this transaction possible.?

?Dennis FitzSimons has provided Tribune with outstanding leadership through a challenging environment,? said Zell. ?He helped build the company into one of the nation?s premier media businesses, and has been instrumental in guiding Tribune to the closing of this historic
transaction. I wish him much success in the next phase of his career.?

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