Sam Zell

LAT publisher part of Tribune succession plan for Michaels *

The Chicago Tribune and Los Angeles Times are reporting that embattled Tribune CEO Randy Michaels has decided to resign, and that sources are saying a new four-person "office of the president" will run the company. One of the four will be Times publisher Eddy Hartenstein, the story says.

The development comes after weeks of turmoil at the bankrupt company, brought on by assertions that Michaels and his management team displayed boorish behavior and fostered a sexist, hostile work environment. The Tribune board met on Tuesday, but no announcement on Michael's fate followed....

The sources said Michaels had willingly decided to make his exit, having concluded that it was best for the company under the circumstances. He and the board had determined that the turmoil was distracting employees, threatening to hurt business and complicating the company's efforts to emerge from a contentious bankruptcy process.

Upon Michael's departure, stabilizing the situation would fall to the new office of the president, which sources said would be occupied by the heads of Tribune Co.'s two largest business units, the executive in charge of the Chapter 11 restructuring and Larsen, who helped structure real estate billionaire Sam Zell's 2007 leveraged buyout of the company.

Around the Times, there seems to be informed agreement that the fingerprints of Los Angeles-based crisis advisors Sitrick and Company are all over the recent moves by Tribune to clean up its executive act. But there has been no official confirmation of Sitrick's role. In the past, Sitrick's hiring to help on scandals and corporate controversies has been deemed newsorthy by the Times.

* Noted: The Tribune's story adds more allegations of offensively sexual behavior by Michaels, including by a female former Tribune corporate employee who said Michaels had her crouch down beside him at his desk then remarked, "Did anyone tell you that you'd look really good on your knees?'"

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