David Hiller left the paper in July 2008 with quite a handful of parting gifts - nearly $15.4 million all told. That covers, among other things, almost $4 million in a deferred bonus, $2.3 million for his stock, and $2.1 million in phantom equity (this is stock that follows the price movement of the company's actual stock). Hiller is among the 209 Tribune Co. managers whose various payouts are contained in a document that's been posted by the Chicago Reader. Total payments: $180 million, of which $28.7 million is going to former Tribune CEO Dennis FitzSimons. All that money is now in play, thanks to litigation filed by a committee of unsecured creditors involved in the company's bankruptcy proceedings. But before taking out your dart guns, consider this:
Many of the 209 "had nothing to do with [Zell's] leveraged buyout" and did not get rich, or richer, from it, and may have been paid out as little as $10,000. And it's money that in many cases was long since spent -- on tuitions, cars, enclosed side porches, on whatever one gets in exchange for tidy but very finite sums.
Chicago Tribune reporter Ameet Sachdev reports that the suits could be a tactical maneuver to force the bankruptcy litigation to a settlement. And the creditors' case appears to be strong. Eddy Hartenstein, co-president of Tribune Co. and publisher of the LAT, says that the employees are being unfairly targeted. "These are people who did absolutely nothing wrong," Hartenstein said. The suits have "severely affected their morale."