‘Frat Boy’ CEO Randy Michaels Out at Tribune

Follows New York Times expose of “frat boy” behavior at Tribune Tower, and resignation of executive Lee Abrams for lewd emails

Last Updated: November 2, 2010 @ 10:04 AM

Randy Michaels, whose "frat boy" behavior as chief executive of the Tribune Company was documented in a New York Times article earlier this month, is out as CEO.

Michaels' removal comes little more than a week after the Tribune Co.'s chief innovation officer, Lee Abrams, resigned in the wake of sending a lewd, companywide e-mail — and on the day the Tribune Co. is scheduled to submit their reorganization plans to emerge from a near-two-year-old bankruptcy case.

The Tribune's board of directors voted on Friday to accept Michaels resignation, and install a four-member executive council in his place: Don Liebentritt, chief restructuring officer, Nils Larsen, chief investment officer, Tony Hunter, president, publisher and CEO of Chicago Tribune Company, and Eddy Hartenstein, publisher and CEO of Los Angeles Times. Larsen was also named Chairman of Tribune Broadcasting.

The company also announced that Jerry Kersting will continue in his role as Tribune Broadcasting president, overseeing the company's television stations, WGN America and WGN Radio. Gerry Spector will continue as chief operating officer.

"Each of us recognizes the company’s strengths and believes in its future," the new council wrote in a joint memo to staffers. "During the last few weeks the company has drawn a lot of media attention, much of it negative. That coverage has diverted attention from the things that matter most:  The quality of our media products, the talent and dedication of our people, and the very real progress that we’ve made over the last two-and-a-half years."

"Now, it is time to move forward and focus on the future," the note continued. "Our business units are in the process of developing their financial and operating plans for 2011 and we are headed into the most important time of the year for our advertising partners.  We’re also making progress on resolving our Chapter 11 bankruptcy cases."

Last week, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Kevin Carey extended the deadline for Tribune and its creditors to submit reorganization plans that could see the company finally exit from Chapter 11.  The change came after creditors told the judge that they needed time to study the Tribune’s plan — due by Oct. 22 — before they send in their own proposals. Creditors now have until Oct. 29 to submit their own plans.

Abrams was suspended after sending a companywide e-mail containing links to lewd material. He tendered his resignation to Michaels on Friday. Abrams sent a company-wide apology for his company-wide e-mail, and Michaels suspended him without pay.

As reported by TheWrap, Abrams' e-mail and subsequent suspension came just one week after a scathing, 4,000-plus word Times article outlined the frat-boy culture existing among senior Tribune executives. In it, Times media columnist David Carr painted the Tribune’s executive suite as a boozy, bumbling frat house, with Michaels (pictured), in one bizarre scene, offering $100 to a waitress to show him her breasts in front of a number of senior employees.

Shortly before Carr’s piece was posted, Michaels fired off a memo to staffers slamming the piece and taking a swipe at Carr’s own documented history of substance abuse — even linking to a website for “The Night of the Gun,” Carr’s memoir about drug addiction.

"There are many reasons to feel good about our future," the council's memo concludes. "There is a lot of work to do, and a lot of opportunity."


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