As of now, Sam Zell has his own category at LA Observed. Signs are it will be a busy one. I get now what New York journos see in the likes of Donald Trump and George Steinbrenner: endless fun copy. Chairman Sam sent out another missive of inspiration to his L.A. employees this morning, but all I hear Times people talking about is a line he uttered yesterday at the Orange County plant. The specific quote varies in the telling, but I've heard from several sources that in defending his decision to allow strip club ads back into the Times, Zell said:
Some of my best friends go to gentlemen's clubs. It's unAmerican not to like pussy.
The exactness of the second sentence is the least in question, repeated to me by a senior editor among others.
* Update: Clarification from another Times editor:
He actually used the word twice. He said: “Everyone likes pussy. It’s un-American not to like pussy.”
The comment about some of his best friends going to gentlemen’s clubs was separate from the above line. That came earlier in the talk, when saying that when he learned of the ban on running ads from the clubs, he was stunned because “some of my best friends go to gentlemen’s clubs.” The un-American comment came later, in reference to advertising guns, to which he said hunting is American … and somehow made the leap to the above comment.
He believes that the Times needs to go after advertising from gun manufacturers and the Indian casinos.
The remark sent some people to Google looking for this passage from Connie Bruck's New Yorker profile last year:
At a recent dinner party, the mention of Hillary Clinton’s name prompted him to use a four-letter obscenity to describe her.
Today's email inspiration from Zell is after the jump:
From: Talk to Sam
Sent: Fri 2/8/2008 5:43 AM
Subject: Who's in Charge?
I've been talking about change and a sense of urgency, and I'm starting to see the messages get through. A reporter recently called with a great revenue-generating idea, and my response was, "Terrific! He gets it! It isn't 'everyone else' trying to generate revenue, he's taken ownership."
But, often, when I hear an idea within Tribune, what follows doesn't address how we can effectively evaluate its potential, or what our next steps are to execute. It's invariably, "I don't want to offend my boss."
So, who's in charge here anyway?
Well, I am. And I am not an absentee owner. Neither should you be.
Every day, you should ask yourself, "Am I testing my limits?"
I'm giving you a green light to ----
Pursue your ideas:
If you have something you believe will drive additional revenue, and that carries limited risk, outline your idea, and bring it to your business unit leader. You can send it to me as well.
Put some thought into your idea outline. Who is the customer? Why do you think it would be relevant? What are the risks involved? What are the costs involved? What's the potential? How will we measure its success?
Our managers and business unit leaders are expected to listen to your ideas, and to give them thoughtful consideration. I know; I'm holding them accountable for doing so.