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Former Time Mirror Executives' Golden Parachutes Revealed In Tribune's Bankruptcy Filing

Posted by: Jon Fine on December 08, 2008

Tribune Co. petitioned for Chapter 11 bankruptcy today, and in its bankruptcy filing listed many key financial details, including who it owes money to.

Among them are the amounts it still owes to former top executives of Times Mirror—no Tribune executives are listed on the filing—the parent company of the Los Angeles Times that Tribune (ill-advisedly) bought in 2000.

In each case, the nature of these executives’ claims are identified as retirement and deferred compensation. The specific amounts owed:

To Mark Willes, the last CEO of Times Mirror, who served from 1995 until the Chandler family sold the company out from under him:
$11.2 million. (!)

To Robert Erburu, CEO of Times Mirror from 1992 to 1995:
$4.4 million.

To Raymond Jansen, publisher of Newsday from 1994 to 2004:
$2.8 million.

To Horst Bergmann, former executive vice-president of Times Mirror:
$2.7 million.

The filing stated that Tribune had $7.6 billion in total assets and just under $13.0 billion in total liabilities.

When the Tribune deal was completed last year, it left Tribune with … $13.0 billion in debt. that the company’s made such little progress in getting rid of that debt despite all manner of staff cuts and asset sales helps explain why Sam Zell did what he did today.

UPDATE: Kevin Roderick at LAObserved suggests that these guys might not get paid.

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Reader Comments


December 8, 2008 10:18 PM

Your appearance on PBS today brought me here. You say you see no solution or transformation that will repair or revive newspapers, yet you advocated their dismantling. Sometimes younger people and those who live in the insular theoretical world of academia yearn for a cohesive revolutionary "solution" when a practical, less glamorous one lay right in front of them. Look at the introduction of the web like the introduction of radio. Sure, it took a chunk out of print news, but it didn't extinguish it. I want to read my news. I don't want to watch it in endless YouTube clips on dozens of different sites. I want quality writing, quality reporting, on parchment to give my eyes a rest and to free me from the tempting clickable distractions.


December 10, 2008 11:44 AM

Again, one problem I have with people saying that print isn't dead is the idea that, in the grand scheme of things, local newspapers will always be there. Of course this isn't true. Any readers of science fiction understand that 500 years from now there will be no newspapers per se. So between 1928 when radio hit its stride, 2008 when the Tribune is in throes, and 2508 when bleep blorp bleep, we will see the decline and closure of print media outlets. We may even see a retro nostalgia resurgence, but we'll definitely see a general decline.

So therefore, it's never been a matter of "if" the daily newspaper in Dayton, OH or Sioux Falls, SD is going to shutter, but like our own lifespan, death is certain, it's just a matter of when it will occur.

As I suggested, science fiction fans know that the robot uprising will cause most daily print newspaprs to close in 2408, but for others, the massive Wall St crash of 2008 is all it took.

Business School uses the Buggy Whip example because it's a real, valid example. Newspapers have reached the end of their natural lifespan.

My wife noticed this fall that we had not received a Washington Post bill in months. Then the sunday-only newspaper stopped coming. It wasn't even worth it for us to call them and ask them what happened, we can just buy one on the weekends when we want one. Their subscription and/or billing department slipped up and now we don't receive a paper newspaper and our recycling just got much easier. That's not going out with a bang, that's going out with a whimper.

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