Tribune CEO turning the page

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Tribune confirmed Wednesday that chairman and CEO Dennis FitzSimons, a 25-year veteran of the newspaper and television station company, will step down once its planned sale is complete.

The sale of Tribune to real estate mogul Sam Zell could close as early as today, though a report surfaced Wednesday in the firm's flagship newspaper, the Chicago Tribune, that some of the financiers were having second thoughts.

Investors, once skeptical — even after government regulators and company shareholders signed off on the plan — have gained confidence that the $8.2 billion deal will happen. Tribune shares in the past month have drifted steadily higher, closing Wednesday at $33.07, not far from the $34 sale price.

On Tuesday, though, Deutsche Bank Securities analyst Paul Ginocchio downgraded Tribune stock to "hold" and said that, on the remote chance the deal does not get done, shares could drop to as little as $15.

Assuming the transaction happens, FitzSimons will leave the company within the next two weeks and Zell will become chairman. Some speculate that Zell also will assume the CEO post.

Tribune owns 23 TV stations, the Chicago Cubs baseball team and several newspapers including the Los Angeles Times, which reported Wednesday that the planned resignation of FitzSimons should not have been a surprise.

"Under FitzSimons, Tribune has had a highly centralized management structure; Zell is known for an entrepreneurial approach," the Times reported.

Some observers also assume that layoffs will come when Zell takes over. But in announcing his intention to resign, FitzSimons said Wednesday that "the company's greatest strength has always been the talent and dedication of its 20,000 employees."
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