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MARTIN SAYS TRIBUNE VOTE IS “SUICIDE PACT” FOR QUALITY JOURNALISM

April 2, 2007

“EMPLOYEES LEFT WITH ALL THE RISK AND ALL THE DOWNSIDE,” MARTIN SAYS. “BUT WE WILL GIVE ZELL HELL”

(NEW YORK) Internet publisher, broadcaster and media critic Andy Martin told a New York news conference that he will continue to oppose the takeover of Chicago’s Tribune Company by Asset-stripper Sam Zell, and will shortly file a competing proposal with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

“I think it is ironic that on the day when new Century Financial filed for bankruptcy, the Tribune Company agreed to a takeover with a 2% down payment. That sure looks like a risky deal to the stock market, which has posted a tepid response in early trading,” Martin said. “Talk about a subprime corporate deal. Mr. Zell knows nothing about newspapers, but he is expected to now ‘know more’ than the entire industry. It makes no sense. And who gets left holding the bag when Zell parachutes out? Why the employees, of course.

“Once again, the investment bankers and brokers will profit by all of the transaction fees, and the public will be the loser. The Tribune will be left weaker, and under the direction of a man with no commitment to journalism and very little financial commitment to the enterprise. Mr. Zell has little risk and some upside; the employees have virtually all the risk and all the down downside.

“I would call the Tribune’s ‘Strategic Review Process’
nothing more than a suicide pact for quality journalism in America. It will not end well. Instead of ‘private equity’ Zell is proposing what amounts to no equity.

“You have to wonder about Dennis FitzSimons. He says he will now have ‘greater flexibility’ and an ‘eye to long-term growth.’ What has he been doing during the past several years? Is he saying that public ownership and media properties are incompatible? That claim also devalues the stock of the New York Times Company and the Washington Post Company.

“There are many additional steps in Zell’s scheme that need approval. I think we can block them at the pass, and also counter with our own superior proposal.

“I said earlier that a vote for Zell would be an act of infamy. And infamy has taken root at the Tribune. Colonel McCormick must be turning in his grave. The Tribune’s acceptance of Zell’s financial legerdemain marks the death knell of serious journalism in America. If a premier franchise such as the Tribune can’t make it and is forced to sell out to an asset-stripping pump and dump artist, then no other newspaper company will survive at the national level. Quality journalism is on the way to extinction. I expect to see the Tribune Tower converted to condos.

“I hope we can succeed in overturning Zell’s agreement. But I do not remotely minimize either the risks or the challenges. Nevertheless, we are prepared to proceed and we will fight on for the public interest and the People of Chicago and Illinois,” Martin said. “We will give Zell hell.”

Media contact: (866) 706-2639

See ContrarianCommentary.com for ongoing document posting in this struggle to save the soul of a city.

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Chicago-based Internet journalist, broadcaster and critic Andy Martin is the Executive Editor and publisher of ContrarianCommentary.com. © Copyright by Andy Martin 2007. Martin covers national and world politics with forty years of personal experience. Columns also posted at ContrarianCommentary.blogspot.com; contrariancommentary.wordpress.com. Comments? E-mail: AndyMart20@aol.com. Media contact: (866) 706-2639.

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One Comment
  1. Spot on Andy. This much debt is not a 30 year mortgage, and it’s going to add to the cost load at Tribune. Yes, condos in the Tower are a likely step to find ways for paring that debt load in the face of an industry shift toward the web for news and advertising which the Tribune has not faced up to. More of my opinion at http://www.ThePhoenixPrinciple.com

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