Thursday, December 20, 2007

Randy, Tribune And TV 8

UPDATE 3:56 PM 12/20/07: The Sam Zell takeover of Tribune is complete, and Randy Michaels has been announced as "executive vice president and chief executive officer of Interactive and Broadcasting" for Tribune under Zell's leadership...


This is by no means a confirmation of our earlier report that Local TV, LLC, the television operating arm of Oak Hill Capital Partners, is in line to buy the FOX sub-top 10 market owned-and-operated stations being sold - most notably, for this report, including WJW/8 "FOX 8" in Cleveland.

But it may explain why nothing's been announced.

The Los Angeles Times reports (along with another story by the Wall Street Journal) that veteran broadcast executive Randy Michaels - now running the Local TV group - is heading for rejoin long-time colleague and partner Sam Zell, who's about to buy the chain.

From the Times article (free registration required):

Michaels' is the first name to surface as Zell begins assembling his management team. A company source said Michaels would probably focus on Tribune's broadcast and interactive businesses.

Anyone who knows Randy's history knows that he ran the old Jacor Communications for Zell, then stayed on after Clear Channel bought out the company as CC's top radio executive.

So, it's no surprise that Randy would lead the charge for Zell with his new company's broadcast - and interactive - divisions.

What does this have to do with "FOX 8", and the eight other FOX O&Os being spun off by News Corporation?

Well, we'd announced that a new buyer was "found", widely expected to be Michaels' Local TV group.

A number of folks who know this sort of thing better than we do are speculating that along with Michaels' move to Tribune, Oak Hill Capital Partners may invest in the new Sam Zell-led Tribune, folding its Local TV stations into that company.

In effect, if this all pans out (and this is major speculation and rumor at this point), Randy Michaels would still end up overseeing the nine smaller-market FOX O&Os, including WJW, but as Tribune's broadcasting boss...not Local TV's.

As such, this deal potentially being "in flux" may be the cause of the delay in the announcement of WJW's new ownership.

That, like everything in the preceding few lines, is our own speculation. But it makes sense, since we already know Randy Michaels is heading for Tribune.

Just some food for thought...


Morgan Wick said...

Would folding Local TV into Tribune break any ownership caps?

Ohio Media Watch said...

Good question, Morgan.

The idea I got - originally, I believe, from a blurb by news columnist Tom Taylor - is that the transaction would basically bring Oak Hill as an investor into Tribune, bringing their TV stations - and perhaps, if I'm reading the tea leaves right, the FOX O&O group including WJW.

None of this means Tribune hangs onto all the stations. Sam Zell has made it known that he's exploring all possible options, including asset sales to raise cash.

My gut, and this is only my gut, is that if all the stations end up under Tribune (including Local TV LLC's existing outlets and the smaller market FOX O&Os), Mr. Zell takes a look at the portfolio and goes something like this:

"I can sell this. I can get money for this. I want to keep this. I don't want to sell this. I need to sell this."

...and some subset of the stations remains under the Tribune banner.

McClatchy did much the same in the newspaper business. It bought the Knight-Ridder papers as a whole, and then immediately spun off a dozen papers that didn't fit their portfolio - including our very own Akron Beacon Journal, which got sold to Black Press.

Just a guess, really, on all of this.

--The Management

It Said said...

Don't forget that the Cubs and Wrigley Field will bring in about a billion dollars (estimated) as Zell has a mountain of debt to wade into..