Zell Gives Up

Report: Ready to leave Trib

By Steve Rhodes
|  Wednesday, Aug 19, 2009  |  Updated 10:04 AM CDT
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What the Zell?

AP

Sam Zell could be leaving the Tribune according to reports.

It looks like we won't have Sam Zell to kick around much longer.

The New York Post is reporting that Zell is "ready to walk away" from the Tribune Company, ending one of the most inglorious chapters of newspaper ownership in Chicago history.

And just to make sure Zell has gotten the message from angry creditors already reportedly organizing a putsch, those lenders have now asked a bankruptcy court for permission to investigate Zell's kinky and controversial $8.2 billion takeover of the media giant, according to the Sun-Times.

That investigation, which would be conducted by an outside law firm, would join probes already underway by the IRS and the U.S. Department of Labor.

The writing is on the front page, Sam.

On the other hand, Zell may not exactly need a push; it's more inconceivable at this point that Zell would want to stay. He never intended to spend so much time as head Tribbie given the array of other business interests still in his portfolio. The company's massive problems forced his hand on that point, and he hasn't exactly enjoyed it.

And why does he need the headache? Zell clearly is not having fun and has little interest in the media industry.

The looming question is what will happen to Mothership Tribune after Zell is out.

Most likely: the company will sell its newspapers in Los Angeles, Baltimore and Hartford - each acquired in the disastrous merger with Times-Mirror in 2000 - and perhaps even all of its properties except those in Chicago.

The best case scenario after that would be for a civically oriented white knight to ride in and rescue the Tower in distress, but don't hold your breath; those are in short supply in Clout Town.

In the meantime, more instability. And it will show.

Steve Rhodes is the proprietor of The Beachwood Reporter, a Chicago-centric news and culture review.

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