Wednesday, August 19, 2009
Media: Zell hath no fury
If Sam Zell were a horse he’d be gelded.
Tell me what there is not to like about the news that the Internal Revenue Service and the Labor Department are investigating Sam Zell?
This revelation is hot on the heels of reports that Tribune Corp. creditors are demanding that the portly pugnacious Zell and his ex-Clear Channel crackerjack cronies get relieved of their duties.
So the bullies got bullied back and it’s all over now.
Their DNA is all over this malfunction.
The Sam Zell-Randy Michaels hires were dead giveaways with those wacky executive titles.
Take Lee Abrams for example. He was about to get the boot from Mel Karmazin following the Sirius-XM merger. Lee needed a job so Randy created one for his fellow chunkasaurus. Remember, these guys have been tight for decades – all the way back to the time when Lee invented FM radio.
Lee’s title is Senior Vice President/Chief Innovation Officer. His job description says he’s to “spearhead the company’s innovation efforts across its publishing, broadcasting and interactive divisions.” It added that he was “the first person to hold the position in the company’s 160-year history.” We can now say that he will also be the last.
And how does Lee work hard for the money? He writes memos. Lots of them.
I was a little surprised when his job description didn’t read that he is more of an idea than a character or a real person.
Of course, he’s also living out his fantasy of becoming a television celebrity with his new featurette for the Trib's WGN-TV, Sky Dives.
This is a high tech continuation of his old XM Radio blog, where he’d put a video of himself and hangers-on flying from Washington DC to exotic locales like New Haven, Connecticut to sample a pizza slice at Pepe’s.
Sky King reruns would be an improvement.
Zell will probably walk and surrender his option to buy a 40 percent stake in Tribune for $500 million.
Sam, the elevator is at the end of the hall. Use it. Press 'down.'
It gets even better.
Smoke smelling Trib junior investors have hired the law firm of Zuckerman Spaeder for representation.
They want to jump in line ahead of senior investors for compensation from the forthcoming Trib fire sales.
The juniors argue that the seniors have already banked fees in the Trib’s employee stock ownership plan – and contributed to the company’s collapse.
Sam, you’ve got to give up that Grave Dancer nickname you so adored.
Try this one on for size. You will be forever known as The Dismemberer.
What a legacy you’re leaving.
A $13 billion debt for starters.
Your Trib is about to be parted out like some old junked car - minus the Cash for Clunkers tax break.
Sam Zell and Randy Michaels: from Big Shots to Big Lots.
Think about it. The Trib is about to be piecemealed on the open market at a time when old media and commercial real estate is a fraction of what it was worth a decade ago.
Sam, the L.A. Times, Hartford Courant, Orlando Sentinel, South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Baltimore Sun and the The Morning Call, among others, and Tribune Broadcasting, Tribune Entertainment, Tribune Media Services, the Chicago Cubs and the Wrigley Field they play in – and the real estate – the Trib tower, the L.A. Times building - all are worth less today than when you bought them.
When a $33.7 million radio station in San Francisco is price-slashed and sold for $6 million and change you’d better be ready for your own haircut.
No one will argue that there are some troubled newspapers that’ve employed writers who can’t write, reporters who can’t report, and editors who can’t edit, but Sam, you and your cohorts were managers who couldn’t manage.
Sam, we feel for the Trib employees that were forced to live in the bubble of your ego right up to the end. Your luck ran out but they’re like passengers in a plane. You and your crackerjack cronies took your golden parachutes and jumped and no one knows how to land the plane other than crashing it.
But we all know that you, Randy, and the boys will find a way to survive this one. Eventually the economy will recover, and – who knows - when it does you’ll probably find another host to lay your eggs in.