Tribune CEO Peter Liguori is the network’s biggest affiliate owner, so the CW owners CBS and Warner Bros have to take him seriously. And something will have to give based on the tough comments he made today at the MoffettNathanson Media & Communications Summit — the same day CW execs told advertisers, in their upfront presentation, that the network just attracted its largest audience in three years. Liguori says he’s “not pleased with where the CW is” adding that it “should not program to [young] people who don’t watch television.” CBS’ Les Moonves and Warner Bros’ Kevin Tsujihara know that CW “can’t move forward without us.” What specifically does the Tribune chief want? Liguori says it may be time for him to “get a seat at the table” for programming. “Maybe I can put some of my content on there.” He also raised the possibility of playing a larger role in its management. “All of those things have to be in play.” Part of the problem, as Liguori sees it, is that CW is a sideshow for its owners. “If CW becomes a competitor, isn’t [Moonves] possibly threatened [at CBS]? Yes. We have to break that log jam.”
Related: CW’s New Series Trailers: ‘The Flash’, ‘Jane The Virgin’
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This little item popped up in the Friday data dump of filings at the SEC. The Tribune CEO told Yahoo that he won’t seek re-election at the next annual meeting, when his term expires. Peter Liguori, formerly a honcho at Fox and Discovery, joined the board in 2012. Yahoo had hoped that the appointment of an independent director would help to derail a planned proxy fight by Third Point’s Daniel Loeb who said, among other things, that the company was underperforming in part because directors were too closely aligned with management. That plan didn’t work, though the company and Loeb finally made peace after it hired Marissa Mayer to be CEO. (Loeb is an investor in Variety with Deadline’s parent company, PMC.) Last year, Liguori also left the MGM board.
CEO Peter Liguori told staffers in a memo today that he wants the business units at his publishing operation — which includes the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, and The Hartford Courant — to organize “by function, rather than by geography.” The goal is to “continue investing in the lifeblood of our business: best-in-class reporting, effective sales and digital growth.” But while newsrooms aren’t the primary targets for the layoffs, editorial staffs will see “selective reduction” from the drive to cut the workforce by about 6%. The changes come as Tribune plans to sell or spin off the publishing operations, and bulk up on television stations. As part of today’s announcement, L.A. Times Publisher Eddy Hartenstein and Tribune Publishing CEO Tony Hunter promised to handle the layoffs “with respect, dignity, and assistance for the future.” They also named executives to run the revamped units. The list includes Chicago Tribune’s advertising SVP Bob Fleck who’s now EVP of Advertising for Tribune Publishing, and LA TImes EVP Bill Nagel who has been named EVP of Marketing for Tribune Publishing. The company emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection at the end of 2012. Tribune says that in Q3 the publishing unit generated $44.7M in operating profit, up from $1.3M last year, on revenues of $446.4M, -3.9%.
Here’s Liguori’s memo: Read More »
CEO Gary Barber told MGM’s private investors that Tribune CEO Peter Liguori left the studio’s board so he could spend more time dealing with his company. He took charge of Tribune in January. Last month the company said that it will spend $2.73B on television station owner Local TV – which Liguori called a “transformational acquisition” — and spin off its publishing assets. The seat that the former Fox and Discovery exec held has gone to another Hollywood veteran: Microsoft’s entertainment and digital media President Nancy Tellem. Barber called the former No. 2 at CBS “a great addition.” Microsoft is eager to persuade movie and TV producers to develop interactive programming that could be used with its voice- and gesture-controlled Xbox One game console. Barber announced the change in a conference call to discuss MGM’s Q2 earnings.
Tribune Co’s new CEO Peter Liguori continues to put his stamp on the company’s top management team. Tribune has appointed Steven Berns as EVP/Chief Financial Officer. Berns, who starts next month reporting to Liguori, comes from Revlon, Inc., where he has served in a similar capacity since 2009. Berns replaces Chandler Bigelow, who, after a five-year stint as CFO, is segueing to a new role as EVP/Chief Business Strategies and Operations Officer. He will oversee the company’s equity investments and its real estate portfolio, and will help lead the ongoing transformation of Tribune’s traditional media businesses, continuing to report to Liguori. “Steven’s broad experience, financial acumen, and open management style will enable us to make a seamless transition in the leadership of our finance team,” said Liguori. “At the same time, I am excited to partner with Chandler in his new role as we continue to evolve our businesses; his institutional knowledge, financial rigor and strategic instincts make Chandler ideal for this role.”
UPDATED: Former Fox Broadcasting Co. and FX executive Matt Cherniss is returning to the TV business and reuniting with his former boss Peter Liguori. Cherniss is joining Tribune Co. as President/General Manager of WGN America and the newly formed Tribune Studios. At superstation WGN, Cherniss replaces Julio Marenghi, who has been named President of Broadcast Media Sales.
Tribune Studios marks Tribune’s official re-entry in the TV production business. The company was a leading producer and distributor of first-run syndication programming in the 1980s and ’90s through its division Tribune Entertainment until it was shut down in 2007. In the past couple of years, Tribune had signaled its interest in re-entering the space. It produces and distributes daytime syndicated program The Bill Cunningham Show and has interest in CBS’ Arsenio Hall late-night talk show and The Test, which will launch on Tribune’s 23 local TV stations in the fall. With Tribune Studios, the company plans to build on and expand what it is doing on Arsenio Hall and The Test by producing and co-producing programming that targets the needs of its stations and the superstation, Tribune CEO Liguori said, noting that “No longer can a media company look at their stations and network as a vehicle to deliver ratings and ad revenue, it’s a much bigger play.” Read More »
For anyone remotely curious about what the future holds for Tribune under the leadership of newly appointed CEO Peter Liguori, the company’s KTLA broadcast this interview. Liguori’s impressive resume includes stretches at Fox Broadcasting and Discovery Networks. This being KTLA, the focus was on TV with a passing reference to the company’s dozen newspapers which include the Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune. Many observers expect the company to offload the newspapers and concentrate on its broadcast assets. Watch the video after the jump. But beware the infernal autoplay. Read More »
This falls into the “as expected” category. We’ve known since November that Tribune was planning to offer the top job to Peter Liguori, who’s best known for his years as an executive at Fox and Discovery. Now that Tribune has emerged from bankruptcy protection, it’s widely believed that the company will focus on its broadcast properties which include 23 television stations as it tries to unload its fleet of newspapers which include the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Baltimore Sun and the Hartford Courant. Tribune Chairman Bruce Karsh, the co-founder of Oaktree Capital Management — a major stakeholder in the media company — calls Liguori “the ideal choice to be Tribune’s next Chief Executive Officer. He has the talent and experience to lead the company forward, and has a track record of success.” In a memo to staffers, Liguori said that he wants the broadcast properties to air “compelling, original programming and best-in-class local news.” And newspapers must provide readers with “the content they need and want, wherever they are and whenever they want it.” He looks to “accelerate our digital offerings and get paid for them” urging employees to do “more blogging, tweeting and recording to deepen our relationship with our audience.” He plans to meet with employees and urged them to “Please be candid and direct with me and I promise that I will actively listen to you….I am passionate about succeeding. I know you are too.”
Eddy Hartenstein had run the LA Times before May 2011 when he was picked to run Tribune as it struggled with its bankruptcy problems. The former DirecTV chief says he is “pleased that the Chapter 11 process is complete and we can all turn our full attention to growing our business and making this company as successful as possible.”
Here’s today’s release: Read More »
Former News Corp and Discovery Communications executive Peter Liguori is expected to be appointed CEO of Tribune now that the FCC approved the transfer of TV and radio licenses to the company’s new owners. The 24 licenses were the last hurdle for Tribune in emerging from bankruptcy. Liguori was selected by Tribune’s new owners, a creditors group led by Oaktree Capital, Gordon & Company and J.P. Morgan Chase, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal. Formal appointment of Liguori, currently an advisor to Carlyle Group, is expected to take place once Chicago-based Tribune emerges from bankruptcy and a new board is in place. Current Tribune CEO Eddy Hartenstein said the company expects to emerge from Chapter 11 “over the next several weeks”. Liguori’s experience at Fox’s FX Network, Fox Broadcasting and Discovery signals TV’s significance for Tribune’s future. Tribune’s 10 newspapers include the Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune, and the company could decide to sell assets to stabilize finances. News Corp Chairman Rupert Murdoch is interested in the Times and Tribune and could make a move once News Corp splits newspapers away from its other media properties.
The former Fox Broadcasting president and Discovery Communications COO is a “leading candidate” to become Tribune‘s CEO after it emerges from bankruptcy, Reuters says. The wire service, citing two unnamed sources “close to the situation,” says that talks are in the late stages but could still fall apart. Peter Liguori would replace Eddy Hartenstein, who has been CEO of the newspaper and broadcast company since May 2011. But several things have to happen before Liguori could come aboard. Tribune needs FCC approval to transfer its 24 TV and radio station licenses to new owners before it can emerge from bankruptcy. The company has to assemble a new board of directors. Reuters also says that Liguori would have to be approved by Tribune’s biggest creditors: Oaktree Capital Management, JPMorgan Chase, and Angelo, Gordon & Co. Liguori left Discovery late last year after briefly stepping in to run its OWN joint venture with Oprah Winfrey. Since then he has joined the boards of Yahoo and MGM and agreed to consult for the Carlyle Group.
The former Discovery Communications COO will work with the investment firm’s Telecommunications and Media team, based in New York, Carlyle said this morning. James Attwood, who runs the team, called Liguori “a seasoned executive who has run several important media businesses and understands how to create value.” The unit has worked on some of the biggest media deals over the last 12 months including the sale of AMC Entertainment to China’s Wanda Group, and the sale of Insight Communications to Time Warner Cable. It also oversees Carlyle’s investment in Nielsen Holdings. Liguori’s also on the boards of Yahoo, MGM, and Topps. Before joining Discovery — where he briefly tried to fix the OWN Network after its stumbling launch last year — the exec became well-known for his work at Fox Entertainment, including a stint overseeing Fox Broadcasting.
It’s a sweet deal, especially when you consider that Discovery shares lost 2.8% of their value in 2011 and three of the company’s four other top execs made less than they did in 2010. Zaslav’s compensation, reported in an SEC filing, consisted of nearly $3M in salary, $20.3M in stock awards, $23.9M in option awards, $4.8M in non-equity incentives, and $430,379 in other compensation. The last category includes personal use of aircraft, car service and security services. Zaslav’s pay indicates that the Discovery board considers him a rock star: He made nearly nine times more than the average for the other four top execs — up from 7.1 times their average compensation last year. Corporate governance experts consider it a red flag when the top earner makes more than three times the average for his or her closest associates. The company filing notes that former COO Peter Liguori — who left the company at the end of the year — received a $250,000 bonus for his brief tenure as CEO of the company’s struggling OWN joint venture with Oprah Winfrey. That amount was guaranteed; he was not granted the additional $250,000 that was left to the discretion of the Compensation Committee. But he doesn’t have to wait for the Barney’s warehouse sale before he buys more business suits: His severance package includes a $1.1M base salary, $1.3M bonus, and $212,837 in stock options.
Yahoo’s effort to make peace with hedge fund Third Point, the company’s staunchest critic and owner of 5.8% of the voting shares, was a bust. The struggling Internet giant hoped to end Third Point’s planned proxy fight by naming three independent directors — including former Discovery COO and Fox Entertainment exec Peter Liguori — and giving the fund a say in the choice of two other directors. Yahoo says that ”there is value in avoiding the cost and distraction that inevitably accompanies a proxy fight.” But Third Point rejected the plan, saying that it shows “one of Yahoo!’s paramount principles of corporate governance is ‘Shareholders not welcome’.” That leaves the fund with “no choice but to take our case directly to our fellow shareholders…Yahoo!’s shareholders deserve a voice and a choice. We intend to provide them with one at this year’s Annual Meeting.” Third Point’s slate consists of CEO Daniel Loeb, corporate restructuring expert Harry Wilson, media consultant Michael Wolf, and former NBCUniversal CEO Jeff Zucker. Last week Loeb complained that Yahoo had been “dismissive” in its review of his slate. Read More »
Peter Liguori Mulling Exit From Discovery
This is now happening — I have learned that Discovery Communications COO Peter Liguori will be leaving the company after two years. The veteran TV executive is expected to stick around until the end of the year. (He started at Discovery in January 2010.) He will not be replaced. Liguori, who previously ran Fox and FX, is the latest top Discovery Communications executive to exit as the company’s president and CEO David Zaslav now faces three upcoming major departures in his upper ranks; Discovery Channel president Clark Bunting and Discovery Communications CFO Bradley Singer both announced earlier this year that they will leave at the beginning of 2012. Bunting’s announcement came a couple of months after he was made to report to TLC General Manager Eileen O’Neill in an executive restructuring. Despite beating earnings expectations in the just-reported third quarter, Discovery Communications continues to struggle with its joint ventures, especially OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network, which sucked up another $12 million investment in 3Q. Liguori was hands-on involved in the January launch of OWN and in May he was named interim CEO of the fledgling cable network following the departure of Christina Norman. Two months later, Winfrey took over the CEO position, and Liguori’s involvement decreased to a point of him having no day-to-day role at the channel. In addition to representing Discovery Communications in its three joint ventures — OWN; The Hub, which also has had a hard time; and 3Net — Liguori’s duties as COO included oversight of Marketing, Discovery Studios, Corporate Communications and Corporate Affairs, Business Affairs, and Media Technology, Production and Operations.
UPDATE 6:15AM: Discovery just put out a release announcing Liguori’s departure:
Silver Spring, Md. – Discovery Communications today announced that Chief Operating Officer Peter Liguori has decided to depart the company at the end of the year. Liguori was responsible for launching numerous creative and brand marketing initiatives around the world, including overseeing the successful launches of Discovery’s joint ventures in The Hub, OWN, and 3net.
President and CEO David Zaslav said, “Pete’s leadership, enthusiasm and creative vision have brought a fresh and important perspective to Discovery.
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January 19 would mark Peter Liguori’s second year anniversary at Discovery Communications but he may not be there to celebrate it. I have learned that the veteran TV executive is considering leaving Discovery, where he serves as COO, before the end of the year. A rep for the company declined comment beyond noting that Liguori “is an executive in good standing and working hard for the company across a number of areas.” Liguori indeed has handled multiple areas since joining Discovery. As COO, he has oversight of Marketing, Discovery Studios, Corporate Communications and Corporate Affairs, Business Affairs, and Media Technology, Production and Operations for the company and has served as the lead executive representing Discovery Communications in its 2 joint ventures, OWN: The Oprah Winfrey Network, and The Hub. Liguori was hands-on involved in the launch of OWN and in May, he was named interim CEO of the struggling cable network following the departure of Christina Norman. Two months later, Winfrey took over the CEO position, and Liguori involvement decreased to a point of him having no a day-to-day role at the channel.
Oprah Winfrey and Discovery Communications CEO David Zaslav have run out of excuses: With their unofficial relaunch today of OWN, they’ll have no one to blame but themselves if their struggling joint venture fails to show a big improvement in the ratings following a dismal 3Q. In its targeted demo, women 25-54, OWN delivered a rating of .16 — down 16% vs. the same period last year when the channel was still Discovery Health. OWN may have set a deceptively low bar for itself; word is that it cut back on marketing in preparation for the relaunch. Still, the channel is betting everything on Oprah’s star power — and, to a lesser extent, Rosie O’Donnell’s — and that will be put to the test beginning today with the launch of The Rosie Show (7-8 PM) and Oprah’s Lifeclass (8-9 PM). Winfrey’s program, built on clips from her syndicated talk show, begins with one of her classics: for an episode about “ego,” she will include scenes from the show where she illustrated how much weight she lost from a liquid protein diet by wheeling in a wagon filled with 70 pounds of fat. Discovery will air both shows today on TLC, Investigation Discovery, Discovery Fit & Health and Planet Green as well as OWN. The joint venture also is spending more than $10M for marketing, not including free ad time on Discovery-owned networks. The cash is going for ads on hit shows such as The X Factor and Dancing With The Stars, as well as radio and billboards, and websites including Yahoo, Google, People.com, Technorati, and TVGuide.com. Read More »
After staying largely out of the spotlight for the past 3 years, former Lifetime and the WB entertainment president Susanne Daniels has taken on a temporary gig as a consultant for Oprah Winfrey’s OWN cable network. Daniels had been rumored for a number of jobs since she exited Lifetime in 2008, and being involved in the launch of a cable channel was reportedly among the dream potential gigs on her to-do list. At OWN, Daniels will consult Harpo Studios presidents Erik Logan and Sheri Salata, who were named presidents of OWN in July. Another veteran cable and broadcast executive, Discovery Communications COO Peter Liguori, had been very hands-on in all matters OWN, including serving as interim OWN CEO following the May exit of Christina Norman. Word is that Liguori is no longer involved in the channel’s day-to-day operations. Nine months after its launch, OWN is still struggling to establish itself, finishing 61st in prime time for the month of September with an average of 181,000 viewers. OWN’s ballooning costs, ratings woes and frequent executive changeovers have prompted industry speculation that parent Discovery Communications might eventually consider reverting OWN into its predecessor, Discovery Health. At OWN, it is business as usual. Next for the cable network is the launch of the Rosie O’Donnell daily talk show on Oct. 10.
It’s not huge money for a guy who made $4.9 million last year. Still, Discovery Communications provided a nice financial sweetener to help COO Peter Liguori ease into his new gig as interim CEO of OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network. The company has promised him a one-time bonus for 2011 that will be at least $250,000 and could go as high as $500,000 depending on OWN’s performance, Discovery says in an SEC filing. He’d still be entitled to the bonus if he’s fired without cause, or has a good reason to quit. Discovery also says it will pay Liguori $60,000 to “defray the cost of his apartment in Washington, D.C.,” and give him up to $2,500 to move to Los Angeles, where OWN is headquartered. Discovery has assured Liguori that he’ll run OWN at least into 2012.