The hometown Chicago Tribune got a long interview with the buyer of the L.A. Times, KTLA and everything else in the Tribune Company's portfolio (except the Cubs.) Mark Lacter gives it a detailed read at LA Biz Observed, plus the Tribune has posted the transcript and video of the interview. Zell bristles at Eli Broad's last-minute offer to buy the Tribune company, calling it essentially a double-cross:
Los Angeles billionaire Eli Broad contacted Zell when it appeared Zell's Tribune bid would win. He wanted to join Zell as a partner, but Zell said he wouldn't consider it until the deal was complete. The next day, Broad and fellow Los Angeles billionaire Ron Burkle sent Tribune a letter alleging Zell had an unfair advantage in preparing his proposal.
This didn't sit well with Zell.
"If somebody calls me and says I want to be a partner, and the next day tries to stick a knife in my back, tell me again why I would want to do business with him?" Zell said.
As for the unrest at the Los Angeles Times, which is on its third publisher and third editor since Tribune's acquisition seven years ago and has seemed to chafe at the company's management, he said he is "more familiar than I would like" with what's going on out there through press accounts.
"My sense is it's a cultural and a locational issue as much as it is anything else," said Zell, who has a home in Malibu, Calif., where he tends to spend every other weekend.
Asked about the relationship between editorial excellence and profit, Zell said quality matters. But he noted: "I really believe you can be relevant and editorially spectacular. And I think you can be irrelevant and editorially spectacular. The name of the game is to be the former and not the latter."
Zell said his favorite columnists are Charles Krauthammer, whose syndicated column runs in the Chicago Tribune, and the New York Times' Thomas Friedman and David Brooks.
"I don't pay much attention to the LA Times editorial page," he said.
Following on our post about Zell's bipartisan political contributions, Robert Salladay at the Times' politics blog checked the California numbers and found that Zell gave $7,429.33 to Arnold Schwarzenegger's initiative campaigns and $6,000 to the governor campaign of ex-mayor Richard Riordan, a close friend of Broad's. Zell also gave $1,000 to Democrat Steve Westly's state controller campaign in 2002.