Christa Robinson has been hired as Tribune’s Chief Communications Officer, effective immediately, the company said today. She will report to Tribune’s President and CEO, Peter Liguori. Robinson moves to Tribune from CNN where she led communications and public relations for all CNN Networks and digital platforms from 1999 to 2013. In 2003, she was named SVP of public relations and, beginning in 2007, was also a member of the CNN Worldwide executive team. Before CNN, Robinson served at the Clinton White House where she was the Director of Communications for the Domestic Policy Council. She previously served as the White House liaison to the law enforcement community and worked on crime policy, health care reform and other domestic initiatives. Robinson will be based in Tribune’s New York offices.
Tribune just took a page from the play books of Rupert Murdoch, who recently separated his print operations from entertainment at Fox, and Time Warner, which plans to spin off its magazine unit. Today’s announcement follows Tribune’s agreement last week to pay $2.7B for Local TV, which will make it the nation’s No. 1 independent owner of major network TV affiliates. Tribune also has acknowledged that it’s shopping its newspapers which include the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Baltimore Sun, and Hartford Courant. The company offers familiar justifications for the spin off of its assets in the weakening print business to create a new company called Tribune Publishing: It will enable the execs running that operation to focus on its special needs with its own capital structure — and give them additional flexibility to cut deals. CEO Peter Liguori adds an obligatory assurance to his reporters and editors that the change “will bring single-minded attention to the journalistic standards, advertising partnerships and digital prospects of our iconic newspapers, while also enabling us to take advantage of the operational and strategic opportunities created by the significant scale we are building in broadcasting.” Each company will generate more than $1B a year in revenues after the separation, with sufficient cash flow to “put these businesses in a strong position for continued success.” It could take as long as a year, though, for Tribune to hammer out the details for the spin off — and to secure the approvals it will need from tax officials and the SEC, among others. The company warns “that there can be no guarantee that the transaction will be concluded or assurances as to transaction terms.” Tribune emerged from the media industry’s biggest bankruptcy ever at the end of 2012. Its chief creditors — Oaktree Capital Management, Angelo, Gordon & Co. and JPMorgan Chase & Co – were empowered to run Tribune, valued then at $4.5B. In Q1 publishing accounted for about 66% of Tribune’s $705M in revenues, but 56% of the $83.5M in operating profits.
Here’s today’s release:
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.
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:
This process should tell us whether the money people believe metropolitan dailies have much life left. Tribune, which is expected to emerge from bankruptcy protection at year end, is looking for a banker to help sell its eight newspapers …
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 …
The FCC’s Media Bureau gave Tribune a permanent waiver so it can continue to own a TV station and newspaper in Chicago, and temporary ones so it can ignore the government’s cross-ownership restrictions in New York, Los Angeles, South Florida and Hartford. The decisions “will enable the company to continue moving forward toward emergence from Chapter 11, a process we expect to complete over the course of the next several weeks,” CEO Eddy Hartenstein says. It also could set a precedent if News Corp — which also owns TV stations in LA and Chicago — decides to buy the Los Angeles Times or Chicago Tribune. Tribune owns 23 TV stations and eight newspapers, and would like to sell some assets to stabilize its finances. Rupert Murdoch is intrigued by the possibility of picking up some major newspapers once News Corp splits its publishing operation off into a separate, publicly traded company.
A federal bankruptcy judge today approved Tribune Co.‘s plan to emerge from Chapter 11 bankruptcy. After overruling one objection and persuading a creditor to withdraw another, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Kevin Carey said he would sign an order approving the plan after final wording changes were made. Tribune owns 23 television stations and and eight daily newspapers including the Chicago Tribune and Los Angeles Times. The company will now seek Federal Communications Commission approval for the new owners — banks and hedge funds including Oaktree Capital Group, J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. and Angelo Gordon & Co. Without the FCC’s permission and transfer of station broadcast licenses to the new owners, Tribune can’t execute its restructuring plan. Depending on how long that process takes, some believe Tribune could emerge from bankruptcy as early as August. Tribune filed for bankruptcy protection in December 2008.
FCC has to go back to the drawing board if it wants to ease the way for a company to own a newspaper and TV station in the same community. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit shot down rules that FCC Chairman Kevin Martin pushed through in 2008 to relax the cross ownership restrictions. The court said that Martin didn’t give the public enough time to respond to his proposals. That means the FCC probably will revisit the cross ownership rules beginning late this summer when it begins the Congressionally mandated quadrennial review of media regulations that was supposed to have been done last year. The court decision doesn’t require any company to divest properties. But if the FCC doesn’t adopt the same rules that Martin favored, it could affect Tribune: It used the 2008 standards to justify newspaper-TV cross-ownership arrangements in New York, Los Angeles, and Miami.