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October 19, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Tribune CEO Randy Michaels emerged from a meeting of The Tribune Co.’s board of directors Tuesday, remarking to reporters: “I work here today and I’m still working.”

The Tribune Company is expected to fire CEO Randy Michaels today (Tuesday), days after Michaels himself dismissed another top executive, Lee Abrams, as its chief innovation officer, published reports said today. Both men rose to top positions in the company from backgrounds in rock-and-roll radio and both were criticized for their alleged efforts to remake the conservative Tribune into a kind of WKRP, the fictional Cincinnati radio station that was the setting for a hit TV sitcom in the 1980s. (Coincidentally Michaels was a Cincinnati disk jockey at the time.) The New York Times, which was the first to report the anticipated firing, citing a person directly involved in the matter, observed in its report: “Mr. Michaels, who came to the company with a broad mandate for change, alienated many of the company’s employees and some of its advertisers with a nontraditional approach, including many tactics borrowed from radio.” Michaels has had a long association with Sam Zell, the Chicago real-estate investor who orchestrated an $8.2-billion leveraged buyout of Tribune that saddled the company with such heavy debt that some say that it was inevitably forced to file for bankruptcy, which it did in 2008. Among Tribune’s holdings are the Chicago Tribune, the Los Angeles Times, and a raft of TV stations including WGN-TV in Chicago, KTLA in Los Angeles, and WPIX in New York. Meanwhile, Forbes magazine has published the text of an email sent by Lee Abrams on Monday defending his actions at the company, including last week’s missive in which he included a link to a raunchy video that got him fired. While saying that his apology for that email “stands,” Abrams goes on to say, “I am sorry for the timing and the results of my action, but continue to believe that people working in traditional media needs [sic] to open their eyes to the realities of our culture in 2010 without denial, self-righteousness or arrogance.  It was my intention to use any reasonable vehicle to help that happen.” Abrams goes on to speculate that he was brought down by people in Tribune’s newspaper division (“the fourth estate”) who had it in for a “‘rock and roll’ type from broadcasting invading tradition.” He then speculates that his “biggest mistake may have been a failure to temper my style to the culture of print newsrooms, as clearly, there has been a contentious attitude between us from the day I walked in.  … But I hope those who find my approach unusual will know that my intentions have never been anything more than to push new thinking in all of our media.”