Published on Tuesday, 19 October 2010 23:49
The day so many have waited for has finally come. Controversial Tribune CEO Randy Michaels has finally given his resignation to the Tribune Company board, and by the end of this week, he will be gone.
Randy Michaels himself tried to dispel the talk of his resigning, after a New York Times article
revealed the information the night before. He had claimed earlier today, that it was just another day at the office. "I work here today and I'm still working," he happily exclaimed to a Tribune writer after the Tuesday morning board meeting ended. It turns out, the New York Times article was indeed correct and Michaels had given his resignation at some point today.
Michaels plans on finishing up a few loose ends and will be out of the Chicago-based office and done with the company before this week is over.
For the time being, Randy Michaels will be replaced by four different men, each overseeing specific parts of the CEO position. The Chicago Tribune has reported
that the four interim leaders will be:
Tony Hunter - Chicago Tribune Media Group President & Publisher
Eddy Hartenstein - Los Angeles Times President & Publisher
Nils Larsen - Tribune Company Chief Investment Officer
Don Liebentritt - Chief Restructuring Officer
Randy Michaels was also the leader of the Tribune Company Board of Directors. It is expected that the Board will continue on without replacing him.
It should be noted that no official announcement concerning these new developments has come forward from Tribune Company. These details have seen the light by a handful of Tribune reporters, working tirelessly at uncovering and reporting the facts on Tribune Company, as they would do on any other company.
Tribune Company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in December 2008, soon after Sam Zell led a leveraged buyout of the company, which threw the deeply in-debt company into much deeper debt. The removal of Randy Michaels, along with the recent departure
of Chief Innovation Officer Lee Abrams, may very well be a key part of the process that was needed to appease certain creditors and US Bankruptcy Judges to get a final reorganization deal done and soon exit bankruptcy.
Once the deal is finalized, which could potentially happen shortly, creditors will take over the company. At that point, a new Board of Directors and a new CEO are highly expected to be chosen, followed quickly by some new upper level executives, replacing those in power currently.
The troubled Tribune CEO has been especially feeling heat lately from a New York Times article
on the front page of their newspaper on October 5th that detailed out just some of the many low-class antics that took over the Tribune Tower after Michaels and his cronies took power there over two years ago. While media columnist Robert Feder
and numerous other Chicago sources, including this very site, have often criticized Michaels' actions, it was not until the New York Times expose
that nationwide attention had been thrust upon the entire Tribune executive team.
One of the most controversial media executives in modern history, even before coming to Chicago in 2007 to run the Tribune properties for new owner Sam Zell, Randy Michaels only padded that ugly resume with even worse incidents of crude, rude, and sometimes unbelievable behavior and decisions. With the notice that Michaels was on the way out the door, frightened Tribune employees are just now beginning to come forward with story after story of boorish behavior by the man, which includes numerous examples of sexual harassment. Stories are now expected to come out for weeks to come, not only about Randy Michaels, but also about the many executives he brought on board from his days of working at Jacor and Clear Channel. Many new allegations came out this very evening in the same Tribune article that announced Michaels resignation
. Michaels was often hounded by stories and lawsuits alleging sexual harassment and other forms of harassment, while he ran both radio companies. He has never apologized once for any of these incidents.
Randy Michaels was born Benjamin Homel. He took the name "Randy Michaels" as his fake 70's radio name, something many DJs did back then. The gimmick of using two first names as an on-air name was very common practice at that time. He has stuck with that name ever since.
Since a youth, Michaels was an enthusiast of radio & broadcasting and used to repair & rebuild old radios. He started his radio career as an engineer first, and then as a DJ while in college in New York. He quickly moved into commercial radio as a DJ. He made a name for himself by being a shock jock in the 70's & 80's. He was known for such low-brow humor as farting on the air, making fun of homosexuals and graphic descriptions of supposedly naked women in the studio with him. This behavior gained him big ratings. Quality on the air did not matter to young Randy Michaels. He just wanted the attention and found ways to gain it.
In addition to his behind-the-microphone work, he started become known for his behind-the-scenes work, especially in radio programming. He is credited for helping to create modern Country radio. In the 70's, at Kansas City's WDAF, he played top Country songs at a fast Top 40 pace, creating an excitement there. He is known for taking dying AM radio stations and breathing new life into them, by creative programming and investing heavily in their news departments. Unfortunately, Chicagoans may best remember him for one of his worst programming decisions. During a short stay in Chicago, it was Michaels' idea to take WYTZ-FM (now WLS-FM) and make it into "Hell Radio." Using slogans like "Go To Hell" and "You've Gone To Hell," the "Hell 94.7" experiment lasted only one week before an embarrassed ABC Radio pulled the plug.
Michaels spent much of his radio career in Cincinnati, OH. In the early 80's, he formed a radio company and bought WLW-AM, a legendary local radio station. Less than three years later, Michaels' company merged with another called Jacor. In 1993, Michaels found Chicago real estate billionaire Sam Zell to buy Jacor and Zell made Michaels its President. Michaels then went on a buying spree, buying up as many radio stations as he could. That caught the attention of Clear Channel Radio, who was doing the same thing at that time. Clear Channel purchased Jacor in 1999, making both Zell & Michaels very wealthy, and eventually appointed Michaels head of Clear Channel, until he left the company in disgrace in 2002 -- very much as he is doing this week with Tribune Company.
When Michaels was forced out from Clear Channel, the magazine & website Radio Ink did a story on him, printing quotes about Michaels, calling him "The Anti-Christ of Radio," "a blight on professionalism," and "representative of the heinous crimes perpetrated by Clear Channel."
After trying and failing at a handful of businesses between 2002 and 2007, he finally received the call from Sam Zell to move to Chicago and help him run the Tribune. Soon after arriving, Michaels ran off numerous Tribune executives and replaced them with former Jacor/Clear Channel employees who would remain loyal soldiers to him and not question his "unique" ways. Former Cincinnati traffic reporter John Phillips was named Tribune Tower manager. Phillip's wife, Betsy Howard Phillips was named Vice-President of Sales Representation. Radio programmer Marc Chase was picked to run Tribune Interactive. Radio programmer Jeff Kapugi became Chief Operating Officer of Tribune Interactive. Radio programmer Tim Dukes is now Vice-President of Interactive Marketing. Radio programmer Andy Friedman is now Vice-President of Content for Broadcasting. Radio manger Mike Glickenhaus is currently Tribune Interactive Executive Vice-President of Products and Solutions. Radio researcher Carolyn Gilbert was named as Executive Vice President of the Multimedia Sales Group. Jacor executive Frank Wood named to the Tribune Board of Directors. Radio programmer (and controversial lightning rod himself) Kevin Metheny was given the role of Programming & Operations Director of historic WGN-AM. Radio programmer Sean Compton was picked to run Tribune Broadcasting. The list of Jacor/Clear Channel cronies goes on and on and on...
Another famous hire was superstar radio programmer Lee Abrams, who was given the title of Chief Innovation Officer. Although never a Clear Channel or Jacor employee, he was a long time friend and colleague of Randy Michaels.
Michaels, along with Sean Compton, gave generous television contracts to Cincinnati radio personalities and longtime friends, Bill Cunningham
and Gary "Earl Pitts" Burbank
. Michaels & Compton have also has reportedly given a television show contract to former Michaels co-worker Todd "Bubba the Love Sponge" Clem.
Michaels & Compton also brought Cincinnati radio personality Mike McConnell
to WGN-AM, replacing longtime favorite Steve Cochran. The results have been less than stellar, and not surprisingly, controversial
. They also attempted, but failed
, to bring over fellow Cincinnati radio personality Bill Cunningham to WGN-AM.
While Lee Abrams' resignation
from Tribune Company a few days ago over a controversial email
he sent out company-wide was a big story, it pales in comparison to the forced departure of CEO Randy Michaels. When he finally leaves the building this week, it will finally be the beginning of the end of a very dark chapter in Chicago media history, national media history and Tribune history.
Though Randy Michaels owns a few homes, including one in Chicago, it is expected he will soon move back to his Covington, OH house, leaving the area.
Tribune Company owns 23 television stations, 13 newspapers, various magazines, one radio station and many other websites and companies. Locally, among the company's properties include the Chicago Tribune, RedEye, Hoy, Chicago Magazine, WGN-AM, WGN-TV, CLTV, and WGN America.