Tribune Take-Private Deal Done

The deal led by Sam Zell to take Tribune Co. private at $34 per share closed Thursday.

 With the completion of the deal, the company is merged with an acquisition subsidiary of the Tribune Employee Stock Ownership Plan and Sam Zell takes over the roles of Chairman and CEO.

 "We have a tremendous opportunity to take the great brands of Tribune Company, and the enormous talent within the company, to a new level," Zell said in a statement, "Tribune, along with the newspaper industry, has been mired in its monopolistic origins, and we intend to create a fresh, entrepreneurial culture that is fast and nimble, and which rewards innovation. Our goal is to provide a sustainable, relevant product for our customers and communities."

 The new executive team at Tribune will have Randy Michaels, former CEO of Clear Channel and LocalTV, heading up Interactive and Broadcasting as Executive Vice President and CEO and Gerald Spector as Chief Administrative Officer.

 The company also announced a slew of proposed board and management changes. Among the members expected to be added to the board are Jeffrey Berg, chairman and CEO of International Creative Management; Brian Greenspun, Chairman and CEO of The Greenspun Corp. and President and Editor of The Las Vegas Sun; William Pate, Chief Investment Officer of Equity Group Investments; Maggie Wilderotter, Chairman and CEO of Citizens Communications; and Frank Wood, CEO of Secret Communications.

 William Osborn and Betsy Holden have been re-elected to the company’s board.

  There were hoops to jump for the company to close the deal by year-end. After some delay, the company received on November 30 waivers it needed from the FCC for five markets where it had newspaper and broadcasting cross-ownership. On Wednesday an article in the company’s flagship Chicago Tribune reported that bankers financing the deal were scouring the company’s books, apparently concerned about trying to sell the debt to investors in a tight credit market.

Tribune’s media assets include newspapers, television stations and interactive media. The company’s newspapers include Chicgao Tribune, Los Angeles Times, Newsday and the Baltimore Sun. The company has 23 broadcasting stations as well as cable network WGN and the WGN AM radio station. Tribune also owns the Chicago Cubs, which it expects to sell in the first half of 2008 along with related real estate and its stake in Comcast SportsNet Chicago. Proceeds from the asset sales will be used to pay down debt.