Peter Liguori, a former top executive at News Corp. and Discovery Communications, is expected to be named chief executive of Tribune Co. after the company emerges from bankruptcy, according to people familiar with the matter.
Liguori is in advanced conversations with incoming owners, according to people who requested anonymity. An official announcement is expected after Tribune emerges from bankruptcy and names a new board of directors, which could occur as early as next month.
Tribune cleared a final regulatory hurdle Friday when the Federal Communications Commission granted waivers that pave the way for transfers of Tribune broadcast licenses to the eventual new owners of the company, a group led by Oaktree Capital Management, Angelo Gordon & Co. and JPMorgan Chase & Co.
The FCC’s staff issued the waivers of its so-called cross-ownership rules, which restrict newspapers from combining with television and radio stations in the same market.
The waivers cover Tribune newspaper and broadcasting units in Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, South Florida and Hartford, Conn.
Liguori would succeed Eddy Hartenstein as chief executive. Hartenstein declined to comment.
Tribune, which has been in bankruptcy for almost four years, owns the Los Angeles Times and KTLA-TV Channel 5 in Los Angeles, along with the Chicago Tribune, WGN radio and television stations and other newspapers and television stations throughout the country. The 23 TV stations are considered the most valuable part of the company.
Liguori, 52, is an advisor to the private equity firm Carlyle Group. Before that, he spent much of his career in TV programming and marketing, including a stint as chief operating officer of Discovery Communications, the cable programming giant. He also has held senior programming positions at News Corp.'s Fox Broadcasting and FX networks.
Liguori, who got his start in advertising and worked in HBO’s marketing and home video departments, is on the board of Yahoo.
“Peter loves the broadcast platform — ratings, scheduling and marketing strategy,” David Zaslav, Discovery’s chief executive, said Friday. “He’s well respected in the creative community and he’s genuinely a good guy. He’s going back to the world that he loves.”
Liguori could not be reached for comment Friday.
Liguori left Discovery at the end of last year. Though he has a strong background in programming and marketing, he has no direct experience in the day-to-day operations of newspapers or television stations, which are Tribune’s primary assets. The company also has a stake in the Food Network cable channel.
Liguori will face myriad challenges in reshaping Tribune for the digital age. He also will have to balance the agendas of three owners who may have differing priorities for running the company.
Liguori, an ardent baseball fan, plans to focus heavily on superstation WGN, which broadcasts Chicago Cubs games, bolstering the channel’s programming to make it more attractive to advertisers and distributors, according to people close to Liguori.
The new owners of Tribune eventually could sell the newspapers.
The buyer most often mentioned is Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. Murdoch has long had an interest in The Los Angeles Times and would like to buy both The Times and the Chicago Tribune, according to people familiar with Murdoch’s plans.
The two newspapers would complement News Corp.'s current holdings, which include the Wall Street Journal and New York Post.
Aaron Kushner, a new owner and publisher of the Orange County Register, also has expressed interest in acquiring The Times.
Oaktree and Angelo Gordon bought up the distressed company’s debt while JPMorgan was the lead lender for the leveraged buyout in late 2007 that installed Chicago real estate magnate Sam Zell as the head of the company.
But within a year, the ad market collapsed and Tribune found itself in Chapter 11 proceedings unable to meet its debt obligations.
When Tribune emerges from bankruptcy, Oaktree will be the largest shareholder with about 20% of the equity. Angelo Gordon and JPMorgan will have about 10% each.
Times staff writers Jim Puzzanghera in Washington, and Dawn C. Chmielewski and Walter Hamilton, both in Los Angeles, contributed to this report.