Read all about it: The party's over, Randy

October 19, 2010

Randy Michaels

Randy Michaels, whose frat house antics and crony-laden management style turned the 150-year culture of the Chicago Tribune into a national laughingstock, appears to be on his way out as chief executive officer of Tribune Co.

The New York Times reported online late Monday night that the board of the Chicago-based media company is expected to seek Michaels’ resignation Tuesday.

Reporters David Carr and Tim Arango quoted an unidentified source who said the board “had lost confidence in the ability of Mr. Michaels to lead the troubled company.”

Carr is the same reporter who wrote the New York Times’ now-infamous front-page story Oct. 6 that detailed a “culture run amok” at Tribune Co. under Sam Zell’s ownership and Michaels’ executive leadership. “Mr. Michaels’s and his executives’ use of sexual innuendo, poisonous workplace banter and profane invective shocked and offended people throughout the company,” Carr wrote. “Tribune Tower, the architectural symbol of the staid company, came to resemble a frat house, complete with poker parties, juke boxes and pervasive sex talk.”

The end of Michaels’ reign, if true, could come just as Tribune Co. exits bankruptcy after nearly two years. A tentative deal with a group of lenders reportedly was reached last week. “When and if Tribune emerges from bankruptcy, it will apparently proceed with new management,” the New York Times reported. “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 with many tactics borrowed from radio.”

The timing and extent of the New York Times’ expose sent shockwaves through the company, which includes the Chicago Tribune, WGN America, WGN-Channel 9, WGN-AM (720), and other major newspapers and television stations across the country.

Just last Friday, Michaels announced the resignation of Lee Abrams as chief innovation officer after Abrams had written a companywide memo with links to an offensive video.  Some saw the move an effort by Michaels to make Abrams a scapegoat and buy himself more time with the board.

Nowhere was Michaels’ heavy hand more apparent than at Tribune’s one and only radio station, WGN-AM, where he installed longtime crony Kevin Metheny as program director and continued to meddle in everything from personnel matters to words that newscasters were forbidden to utter on the air.

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