Friday, November 30, 2007

When Sammy met Kevvie

Sam Zell made one thing perfectly clear to FCC Chairman Kevin Martin: He wanted radio-television-newspaper cross-ownership for the Tribune Corp. and nothing less.

He didn’t care if Kevin got his full-blown deregulation revisions approved. Zell was only interested in his deal and if Kev didn’t come through he’d be through - and singing soprano, if you know what I mean. He made that fact quite clear in his closed-door meeting with Kevvie last week.

You can always spot Kevin in Washington. He’s has the Zell brand burned onto his backside.

It's rumored that Kevvie didn’t even get a taste – at least over the table.

Memo to GAO: Please check the books and run the numbers in the Chairman’s office at the FCC. Yes, again!

You almost want to feel for Kev. All he ever wanted in life was to be part of the Bush-Cheney brugard.

The stupidly brilliant or brilliantly stupid Martin sought to abolish all cross-ownership bans by his drop-dead date of December 18 but realized that in the current political climate he’d end up in a long, expensive court battle and the image of his Grand Old Party would be further tarnished in the court of public opinion.

He used that pretext as his out for Sam Zell. “I don’t think it’s appropriate to require companies to be divesting properties while there’s litigation going on,” said the boy Kevin while patting the sweat from his forehead.

Zell didn’t get exactly what he wanted. The deal Martin cut keeps everything status quo at the Tribune for another two years.

Still, it’s enough for Zell to take the Tribune private by the end of the year, which is all he cared about. Had he not scored the big wet kiss from Martin, Zell would’ve been stuck with enormous missed-deadline fees. If his proposed $8.2 billion buyout of the Trib been delayed to the following year it would’ve put his convoluted Employee Stock Ownership Plan on a permanent vacation.

Though the deal still needs full commission approval, it’s expected to pass without a hitch.

Trib Chairman, President and EO Dennis FitzSimons released a statement that read, “"We are pleased with Chairman Martin's proposal which, if approved, will enable Tribune's going private transaction to close by the end of the year.” Rather than cite the real reason for getting this deal done, FitzSimons continued, “This will allow Tribune's local media outlets to continue their commitment to outstanding journalism and service to our readers, viewers, listeners and advertisers."

Translation: The layoff and buyout lists are being prepared as you read this.


Anonymous said...

As you mentioned in a previous blog Sam Zell's fingerprints are all over the original Jacor/Clear Channel deal that brought us the beginning of the end with Randy Michaels and his failed wheel and spoke concept. I feel badly for anyone working for the Tribune.

Jennifer said...

I look forward to reading your book. Finally, the perfect Christmas gift for John Brian! I got him a copy and one for myself.
JLN (JB's younger sister)

Anonymous said...

I feel sorry for anyone working for the Tribune. If they want to know what is forthcoming they should contact people who were at Clear Channel ten years ago. I am not sure what is worse. Those that leave or those than "survive."