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Television executive Peter Liguori is the new CEO of the Tribune Co., the 165-year-old media company that owns the Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune and recently emerged from bankruptcy.
Tribune, based in Chicago, made the announcement Thursday after its new board of directors met for the first time in Los Angeles.
Liguori, who was a top executive at Discovery Communications and News Corp., had been expected to be named CEO since joining the board in December. Tribune’s revamped board also includes Ross Levinsohn, the former interim CEO of Yahoo, who this week was named CEO of Guggenheim Digital Media, parent company of The Hollywood Reporter.
Eddy Hartenstein, who had been Tribune’s CEO for the past 20 months, will remain a board member and continue as publisher of the L.A. Times. He’ll also be a special advisor to the office of the CEO.
Tribune filed for bankruptcy in 2008 – one year after real-estate mogul Sam Zell purchased the company for $8.2 billion — and didn’t emerge from it until late last month, marking one of the longest bankruptcy cases in U.S. corporate history.
Though Tribune made its mark in print journalism and still owns eight newspapers, its broadcast portfolio has widened dramatically over the years, so that it now owns 23 television stations, WGN America on national cable, Chicago’s WGN-AM radio station, several news and information websites and about a third of the Food Network.
While Liguori is expected to grow the broadcast business, some analysts have speculated he’ll dial back on the print side, possibly by selling some of the newspapers. But Liguori, who was unavailable for comment, seemed to give print his vote of confidence in a letter he emailed to employees on Thursday.
“Our digital operations, television outlets and newspapers are the best in the country,” he said in the letter, which was obtained by The Hollywood Reporter. “As important as the parts of this company are as businesses, I know that Tribune is more than just a collection of financial assets. They are leading examples of what is best in media, television and journalism in America.”
Luguori steered clear of specifics, but he suggested several digital changes might be in store at the Tribune-owned newspapers, including “partnering with readers to deliver the content they need and want, wherever they are and whenever they want it. We must accelerate our digital offerings and get paid for them. Across all of our businesses it means more blogging, tweeting and recording to deepen our relationship with our audience.”
Also on Thursday, Tribune said its board elected as chairman Bruce Karsh, president and co-founder of Oaktree Capital Management, which owns about 23 percent of the new Tribune.
Liguori was most recently COO of Discovery and, while there, spent two months as CEO of Oprah Winfrey’s OWN. Prior to that, he was with News Corp. as chairman of entertainment for Fox Broadcasting and CEO of FX Networks.
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