Tribune Co. has named Edward Lazarus, a former high-ranking Federal Communications Commission official and one-time federal prosecutor in Los Angeles, as its executive vice president and general counsel.
Lazarus, 53, is the first key hire for Tribune's new chief executive Peter Liguori, who took office this month. Tribune, parent company of the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune and KTLA-TV Channel 5, emerged from protracted bankruptcy proceedings Dec. 31 with new ownership and plans to redefine the Chicago-based company's leadership and direction.
"This is a company with tremendous opportunities, iconic brands and wonderful businesses," Lazarus said in an interview. "And I'm excited to work with a CEO whom I've known for 30 years."
Lazarus and Liguori, a former Fox and Discovery Communications executive, attended Yale University together in the early 1980s. They maintained their friendship over the years, including when Lazarus was a partner at the law firm Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld in Los Angeles. At the time, Liguori was a top programmer for News Corp.'s FX and later Fox networks.
Lazarus, who worked as a federal prosecutor in Los Angeles in the late 1990s, joined the FCC four years ago as chief of staff for the agency's chairman Julius Genachowski. Lazarus served for three years, helping navigate difficult issues including clashes over Internet access rules and the review of the Comcast merger with NBCUniversal.
He said he stepped down from the FCC because "it was time to let someone else take the reins." He then served as a fellow at the Aspen Institute.
Lazarus' hiring signals that Liguori and Tribune's new owners, including Oaktree Capital Management and Angelo, Gordon & Co., are interested in a top lawyer who is familiar with the inner workings of the FCC. The company has been lobbying the FCC to repeal cross-ownership rules that prevent media companies from owning TV stations and newspapers in the same market.
Tribune currently has an FCC waiver to allow dual ownership in Los Angeles and Chicago. But those waivers would not automatically extend to new owners, should Tribune sell its newspapers in those markets.
Lazarus, who started Tuesday, said it was too early for him to say whether the company planned to sell its newspapers. He comes to the job familiar with the pages of the company's properties, including the L.A. Times. Lazarus has written opinion pieces and book reviews for the Times. He also has written two books: "Black Hills/White Justice: The Sioux Nation Versus the United States, 1775 to the Present" and "Closed Chambers: The Rise, Fall, and Future of the Modern Supreme Court."“Eddie has an incredibly sharp mind, broad legal experience, and he played an important role at the FCC,” Liguori said in a statement. “He is the perfect fit as our general counsel and will be a tremendous asset to the company and its media businesses.”
Lazarus succeeds David Eldersveld, who joined Tribune nearly eight years ago and has served as general counsel since 2010. Eldersveld will remain with the company as a special advisor.