Poker party ‘desecrates’ Tribune Tower shrine

Poker party ‘desecrates’ Tribune Tower shrine

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Tribune Co. CEO Randy Michaels (far right) at the start of “Poker Night”

Photos published on Facebook show top executives of Tribune Co. — led by CEO Randy Michaels — at a gambling, drinking and smoking party in the palatial Tribune Tower office once occupied by the company’s patriarch, Col. Robert R. McCormick.

“We are in the office of the guy who ran the company from the 1920s to 1955 — it’s normally a shrine,” wrote John D. Phillips, the Tribune Tower building manager who posted the photos. “We pretty much desecrated it with gambling, booze and cigars. Good thing we know the guy who runs the building!”

Randy Michaels and Kevin Metheny

Among those identified in the photos with Michaels were Lee Abrams, senior vice president and chief innovation officer of Tribune Co., Marc Chase, president of Tribune Interactive, and Kevin “Pig Virus” Metheny, program director of Tribune news/talk WGN-AM (720). One of the photos shows Chase and Metheny holding large wads of cash.

Kevin Metheny and Marc Chase

“We broke every rule in the building,” Phillips bragged, also noting: “I particularly liked covering the smoke detectors with Saran Wrap.” According to his account, Texas Hold ‘Em was played and Scotch was served. Phillips wrote that his wife, Betsy, also a Tribune Co. employee seen in the photos, “won the whole night!” It’s not specified when the event occurred, but the photos on Phillips’ Facebook page are dated June 17, 2009.

Phillips is a former Cincinnati radio traffic reporter who was among about two dozen former Jacor and Clear Channel associates Michaels hired at Tribune Co. since Sam Zell took the company private in a leveraged buyout in 2007. While continuing to operate under bankruptcy protection, Tribune Co. disclosed plans last week for a third round of executive bonuses, bringing the total to more than $72 million.

Colonel McCormick’s 24th‚ floor Tribune Tower sanctum is clearly identifiable in the photos, including the ornate fireplace, oak paneling and hardwood floor from which the legendary media mogul lorded over his Chicago-based empire for three decades.