Tribune Emerges From Bankruptcy

Liguori Expected To Be Named CEO

Media giant Tribune Co., parent to several major newspapers, television stations and the WGN America cable network, emerged from bankruptcy protection on Monday and is expected to name long-time cable executive Peter Liguori as its new CEO in the coming weeks.

Tribune is parent to eight daily newspapers across the country including the Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune,  23 television stations, the WGN America cable channel and has a one-third interest in The Food Network.

The company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2008 after a buyout from real estate magnate Sam Zell burdened it with nearly $13 billion in debt just as the print advertising business fell into decline. Earlier this year a group of creditors headed by private equity fund Oaktree Capital Management gained control of the company in a deal which valued Tribune at about $4.5 billion.

Liguori, who had been a top executive at News Corp. and most recently served as chief operating officer of Discovery Communications, is expected to take the helm of the reorganized media giant in the next several weeks.  

The company is currently headed by CEO Eddy Hartenstein, himself the former CEO of satellite TV giant DirecTV.

While Tribune’s new owners are expected to sell off assets like the newspapers and its Food Network stake – which some analysts have valued at between $1.5 billion and $1.8 billion and is a likely target of Scripps Networks Interactive which owns the other two-thirds of the channel – Liguori is expected to try to build the television side of the business.

“Tribune emerges from the bankruptcy process as a multi-media company with a great mix of profitable assets, strong brands in major markets and a much-improved capital structure,” Hartenstein said in a statement. “The company’s greatest asset, however, is its employees who, individually and collectively, have remained focused on serving our viewers, readers, advertisers and communities with a single-minded sense of purpose and dedication. I want to thank all our employees for their talent and effort throughout this four-year process.”

In connection with emergence, Tribune closed on a new $1.1 billion senior secured term loan and a new $300 million asset based revolving credit facility. The term loan will be used to fund certain required payments under the plan of reorganization, and the revolving credit facility will be used to fund ongoing operations.

“In accordance with our restructuring plan, Tribune’s subsidiary creditors and vendors are receiving payment in full—100% recovery of what they are owed,” Hartenstein said. “These long-term relationships are very important to the company and we are pleased to have successfully resolved these obligations.”

Tribunes new board includes Oaktree president Bruce Karsh and managing director Ken Liang, Liguori, Hartenstein and several well-known  entertainment industry executives such as former Walt Disney Co. strategy chief Peter Murphy, former Yahoo Inc. head of global media Ross Levinsohn, and entertainment attorney Craig A. Jacobson,

Tribune’s new board of directors will convene its first meeting in the next several weeks, at which time it will define the roles of its members, its committee structure, and designate and ratify the company’s executive officers. Hartenstein will remain in his current role as CEO until that time.