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Tribune hires Berns as CFO, promotes Bigelow to strategic role

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Tribune Co. has hired Steven Berns, the top finance executive for cosmetics company Revlon Inc., as its chief financial officer and promoted its current CFO, Chandler Bigelow, to serve in an expanded role developing strategy for the company.

Chicago-based Tribune, parent company of the Los Angeles Times, made the announcements Wednesday.

Bigelow, the company's CFO for nearly five years, will transition into a newly created position of executive vice president and chief business strategies and operations officer. Bigelow, 44, will be responsible for the company's equity investments, including its minority stake in the cable Food Network and interests in such classified ventures as cars.com and careerbuilder.com.

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Bigelow also will oversee strategy for the media company's eight daily newspapers. He will be responsible for its portfolio of prominent real estate properties, including the historic Tribune Tower in Chicago and the Times headquarters in downtown L.A.

"The last several months at Tribune have convinced me he is the perfect choice to help craft the strategy behind the ongoing transformation of our broadcasting and publishing businesses," Tribune Chief Executive Peter Liguori said in an email to Tribune's staff.

Bigelow "has great strategic instincts, and he believes deeply in the incredible talent of our people, the strength of our assets, and the power of our distribution platform," Liguori said. "He understands Tribune’s rich history and is passionate about its future success."

Both Bigelow and Berns will report to Liguori, who joined Tribune in January after the company emerged from four years of bankruptcy protection.

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Tribune is one of the nation's largest TV station owners, operating 23 television stations, including KTLA Channel 5 in Los Angeles.  The company also owns cable channel WGN America and Chicago's WGN-AM radio station.

The company has eight daily newspapers, including The Times, the Chicago Tribune, the Baltimore Sun, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel and the Orlando Sentinel.  In February, Tribune hired investment bankers to conduct a strategic review, which could lead to an auction of the newspapers.

That review is ongoing.

Tribune this week reported that earnings fell in 2012. The media company posted net income of $422.5 million for the 12 months ended Dec. 31. That was down 5.7% from $447.9 million in 2011. Tribune’s full-year consolidated operating revenues were approximately $3.145 billion.

Last year, Revlon -- which is publicly traded -- reported earnings of $51.1 million, or 98 cents a share, on sales of $1.42 billion.   That was up from $1.38 billion in 2011, although earnings were down slightly due to a negative impact of foreign exchange rates.

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Berns, 48, has been CFO of Revlon since May 2009. He is expected to join Tribune in July as executive vice president and chief financial officer. Berns will be tasked with overseeing the company's finance functions, including financial reporting, treasury, tax and audits.

“Steven’s broad experience, financial acumen, and open management style will enable us to make a seamless transition in the leadership of our finance team -- he will be a great addition to the company and a valued partner on our executive team,” Liguori said.

Prior to working as CFO at Revlon, Berns held several other executive positions, including as chief financial officer at Tradeweb, an electronic trading marketplace, and as CFO of MDC Partners. For five years until September 2004, Berns was senior vice president and treasurer for the Interpublic Group of Companies, Inc., one of the world's largest collections of advertising agencies.

Bigelow, who joined Tribune 15 years ago, was named treasurer in 2003. In 2008, he was promoted to CFO.

“I’m excited to continue helping Peter with the ongoing transformation of our broadcasting and publishing businesses,” he said. “Tribune starts with a number of advantages -- great content, a powerful distribution network and extremely talented, dedicated employees -- and there are a lot of great opportunities ahead for the company.”   

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