Inside Tribune's bankruptcy and culture

Report cites frat jokes, innuendo; board supports CEO

Innuendo, poker games and a new employee handbook - they all exemplify the workplace culture that a management team appointed by Sam Zell, when he acquired the media company, and overseen by CEO Randy Michaels has shaped at Tribune, according to the New York Times.

The report highlighted the company's continued challenges amid its drawn-out Chapter 11 bankruptcy process.

Tribune representatives, meanwhile, expressed support for the company's culture and direction.

Tribune creditors have been eyeing a possible new leadership for whenever the owner of TV and radio stations, as well as newspapers such as the Chicago Tribune an LA Times, emerges from bankruptcy.

"Working at Tribune means accepting that you might hear a word that you, personally, might not use... You might hear a joke that you don't consider funny," the Times on Wednesday quoted from a new employee handbook developed by the Tribune management team. "That is because a loose, fun, nonlinear atmosphere is important to the creative process... This should... not [be] considered harassment."

The Times cites a poker game of top executives and instances of innuendo, including a memo announcing the hiring of former Clear Channel executive Kim Johnson that described her as "a former waitress at Knockers - the Place for Hot Racks and Cold Brews," a fictitious restaurant.

But the Times also highlights that Michaels has the support of the Tribune board. "Randy is a tremendous motivator, very charismatic, but he is very nontraditional," Frank Wood, a member of the Tribune board, told the Times. "He has the kind of approach that motivates many people and offends others, but we think he's done a great job."

Michaels in a memo obtained by LA Observed told his staff that the Times writer "has made clear that he is digging up these old allegations because he believes that decisions about the company's management are about to be made, and he wants to influence those decisions."
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