"This was a textbook case of a leverage buyout gone bad. These were imbeciles who had no idea what they were doing."
Writers, it seems, can have it both ways. The 67 year-old Zell screwed the Tribune Co. acquisition. His fiery temper quickly lost him some support among the employees he professed to be in partnership with. That gained speed as he made poor hiring decisions and insulted the work of the employees.
Money can buy a lot of things in life. As Zell noted to employees, he can retire right now, without the millions he stood to make if he had been able to deal away the Tribune Company. Some things that happened under his watch will survive and thrive. I'm thinking ChicagoNow and Colonel Tribune will be among them.
Some things are still sucking holes, swallowing money with a need for major retooling. TribLocal is a good example of how not to compete in the community newspaper market. A good concept, it has lacked real editorial support and needs to change or die.
It is a mixed bag, despite all the apologists for Zell and his brilliance. Zell couldn't even do well what he really does do so well; deal in real estate and deals. Although he successfully sucked $650 million out of the Newsweek deal, he became lost in the Cubs deal, most seriously when he attempted to use Rod Blogojevich to boost his profits, possibly by selling the editorial independence of the Chicago Tribune.
How can he save face, really, when it is obvious to any serious student of this deal that he rewards and protects incompetent managers; was ready to sell the most important asset of the newspaper: trust for a short-term profit; and misread the market.
I want to devote a lot more space to that last point. Zell made his millions by being in a fortunate position in a massive run-up of real estate values. I'll say right here, he knows real estate.
However, what if, in 2007, this had been a REAL ESTATE deal, not a media deal? Let's consider how brilliant his complete miss of the crash would have been then. One of the issues I have with business reporters is they make heroes of people who are sometimes just lucky. Zell was lucky to have sold his real estate business when he did and unlucky, and conceited, to have made a move into media when he did.
If you'd like to have a private go at me, fire away Zellots. I can be reached at LouGrant70 (at) yahoo (dot) com. Please, include at least 50 words blaming the Huffington Post for Zell's media failure.