Television executive Peter Liguori likely to lead Tribune Co.
Peter Liguori, a former top executive at News Corp. and Discovery Communications, is expected to be named as the new chief executive of Tribune Co., parent of the Los Angeles Times and KTLA-TV Los Angeles, after the company emerges from bankruptcy, a person familiar with the matter said.
An official announcement of Liguori’s hiring is not expected until after Tribune emerges from bankruptcy and formally names a new board of directors. A big step in that direction occurred Friday when the Federal Communications Commission approved a transfer of the Tribune broadcast licenses to Oaktree Capital Management; Angelo, Gordon & Co.; and JPMorgan Chase & Co., the soon-to-be owners of the media conglomerate.
Liguori would succeed Eddy Hartenstein as chief executive. A spokesman for Tribune Co. declined to comment.
Besides the Los Angeles Times and KTLA, Tribune owns 22 other television stations, including valuable outlets in New York, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.; other newspapers in the Tribune portfolio include the Chicago Tribune, Baltimore Sun and Orlando Sentinel. The TV stations are considered the most valuable part of the company. The company has been in bankruptcy for almost four years.
Liguori, 52, is currently an advisor to the private equity firm Carlyle Group. Before that, he spent much of his career in television programming and marketing – including serving as chief operating officer of the cable programming giant Discovery Communications. He has also held senior programming positions at News Corp.’s Fox Broadcasting and FX networks. Liguori, who got his start in advertising, is also on the board of Yahoo.
While Liguori has a strong background in programming and marketing, he has little direct experience in the day-to-day operations of newspapers and 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 reshaping Tribune and its traditional media properties for the digital age. He will also have to balance the agendas of three owners who may have differing priorities with regards to running the company and exit strategies.
There is already speculation that the new owners of Tribune will look to 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.
Oaktree and Angelo, Gordon bought up the distressed company’s debt while JPMorgan was the lead lender for the leveraged buyout in 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. Oaktree will be the largest shareholder in Tribune, with about 20% of the equity. Both Angelo, Gordon and JPMorgan have about a 10% stake.
Times staff writer Dawn C. Chmielewski contributed to this report.
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