Tribune Co. named veteran TV station executive Larry Wert as president of local broadcasting, overseeing the company’s 23 television stations and WGN Radio in Chicago.
Wert, 56, currently is a prominent executive in NBCUniversal’s television station group; serving as general manager of NBC’s Chicago station since 1998. He had responsiblity for five stations, including KNBC-TV Channel 4 in Los Angeles, KNSD-TV Channel 7 in San Diego as well as WMAQ-TV Channel 5 in Chicago, from 2008 to 2011, when he became executive vice president of station initiatives.
Wert is making the leap to Tribune as the company emerges from a four-year bankruptcy with a newly installed management team.
He is the second major hire by Peter Liguori, who became Tribune Co.'s chief executive in mid-January and soon thereafter appointed Edward Lazarus as executive vice president and general counsel.
“One of my greatest hopes is to collect the best athletes, those with the highest IQs to fill the positions that we have,” Liguori said in an interview Wednesday. “And no one in the business is better than Larry in the local station game.”
Wert will report to Liguori and assume some of the responsibilities of Nils Larsen, who joined Tribune in 2008 when real estate magnate Sam Zell took control of the company.
Larsen, president of Tribune Broadcasting, remains with the company. Tribune said he would assist Wert in the transition.
Television will be a major focus of Tribune Co. as the company strives to improve its performance. TV stations represent an area ripe for growth. Advertisers continue to support local television, and many of Tribune’s stations -- including KTLA-TV Channel 5 -- have been squeezed financially in recent years, as the recession set in and bankruptcy proceedings dragged on. Tribune stations have lost ground to rival stations owned by ABC, CBS and NBC.
“This is a great opportunity for me,” Wert said. “I respect the company’s rich legacy and its great brands. We will look to create opportunities to build on its already strong foundation."
Wert started his career at the Leo Burnett advertising agency in Chicago in 1978. The following year, he got his first television job at KABC-TV Channel 7 in Los Angeles as a sales associate. In 1989, he returned to Chicago to work in radio and television. He spent several years with Evergreen Media and Chancellor Broadcasting before joining NBC 15 years ago.
From 2008 to 2011, Wert was responsible for NBC’s Central and Western region stations while continuing as general manager of the Chicago station. Under his leadership, NBC5 in Chicago became one of the top news stations in the market with a penchant for special-event productions, including coverage of the Chicago Marathon and Chicago Auto Show.
His start date at Tribune has not been determined.
Wert holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. He and his wife, Julie, have four children. They live in Wert’s hometown of Riverside, Ill.