Sam Zell: You’re fired! Now let’s move on…
Chief Executive Sam Zell held a conference call with reporters at its papers on Tuesday, prompting a profusion of press coverage in Tribune-owned publications on Wednesday. Some of the most interesting excerpts showed up in The Hartford Courant:
Tribune Co. CEO Sam Zell Tuesday defended his decision to order large cuts at newspapers across the chain, including The Courant, saying that no one could have predicted the dramatic drop in advertising revenue that followed his takeover of the company seven months ago.
Zell, in a conference call with Tribune reporters, said newspapers are confronting “some of the worst advertising numbers in the history of the world,” and said the only alternative to eliminating employees and cutting the size of the papers would be to allow the businesses to fail.
“The reality is, what’s my choice?” Zell asked. “Do I try and create a business that can be viable and preserve two-thirds of the jobs? Or do I let all 100 percent of them go by the wayside because I’m not willing to confront the realities of the environment?”
What about his desire, expressed earlier this year, that he not make the business all about cutting jobs?
“I don’t believe it’s fair to hold me to the sentence that I expressed when I was [in Hartford] six months ago,” Zell said. “I don’t know that anybody has a frame of reference on advertising revenue destruction that, in effect, is as bad as this, going all the way back to the Depression. So I think the circumstances are dramatically worse than anyone could have possibly predicted.”
More coverage here:
The Morning Call (Allentown, Pennsylvania)
Newsday (Long Island, New York)
The Sun (Baltimore, Maryland)
For reporters who cover Tribune, this is all very interesting stuff. Here’s hoping cost cuts don’t force those papers to cut the Tribune beat.