Peter Liguori Expected to Head Tribune Co. (Report)

1:18 PM PST 11/16/2012 by Alex Ben Block
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The bankruptcy is expected to end shortly, and the former Fox and Discovery executive is said to be the choice of the new owners, who are the company’s largest creditors.

Veteran broadcasting executive Peter Liguori is in line to become CEO of Tribune Co. when it emerges from bankruptcy, according to a report Friday in the Chicago Tribune.

The end of the bankruptcy is imminent. The FCC was expected Friday to ratify a Nov. 14 order by chairman Julius Genachowski to approve the transfer of licenses for Tribune TV stations in five markets. Once that is done, the company can emerge from bankruptcy.

Liguori, 52, started his career in advertising but is better known in Hollywood and the television industry as the executive who helped put News Corp.’s FX Network on the map, along with his stints at the Discovery Channel and the OWN Network.

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At FX, Liguori was credited with boosting the basic cable channels brand with edgy shows such as The Shield and Rescue Me. He was one of the first to move a basic cable channel from a home for reruns to a place for first-run shows.

"FX was a channel when he took over, a little tiny cable channel losing a bunch of money," Jeff Shell, president of NBCUniversal International told the Chicago Tribune. "He made it into something big by imagining something different, and I think that's what Tribune needs."  

In 2005, Liguori became present of Fox Broadcasting Co. He left in 2009 to become COO at Discovery Communications, where he was charged with overseeing OWN, the joint venture of Oprah Winfrey and Discovery.

When OWN ran into trouble, Liguori became its interim CEO. Two months later, Winfrey took over as permanent CEO of OWN. Liguori left Discovery in December 2011 and now sits on the boards of MGM, Yahoo and Topps. Since July, he has been a consultant to the Carlyle Group, a private-equity firm. 

While Tribune, created 165 years ago, is rooted in print as the owner of the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune and other publications, Liguori is seen as the right person for the job because the company’s future is so tied to its 23 broadcast properties, including KTLA-TV Los Angeles and WGN America. He will be asked to maximize the value of those stations and improve their programing and ad sales.

There are unconfirmed rumors that Tribune might be broken up after the bankruptcy, with much discussion of the spinoff or sale of the newspapers.

The new ownership group -- led by the large creditors --  is headed by Oaktree Capital Management, Angelo, Gordon & Co. and JPMorgan Chase.

Once they are officially in charge, the new owners will appoint a board of directors, which will choose a CEO. The Tribune reported that the new owners have selected Liguori.

Eddy Hartenstein is the current CEO of the Tribune Co., as well as publisher of the Los Angeles Times. A spokesperson for Hartenstein said a rep for Tribune would be more appropriate to comment. The Tribune spokesperson had not returned a call seeking comment before this story was published.

Tribune filed for bankruptcy in December 2008, about a year after real estate investor Sam Zell used borrowed money -- including the pension funds of the employees -- to buy the company for more than $8 billion.

The bankruptcy will cancel most of the $13 billion in debt on the company’s books. Creditors will receive lesser amounts.

A creditor called Aurelius Capital Management LP and some other small creditors objected to the reorganization plan but lost in bankruptcy court. They are appealing, but that does not appear likely to change when the bankruptcy will end or who will being charge afterward.

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