On Wednesday, Sam Zell responded to the suit filed Tuesday by a group of LA Times staffers against him and the company. He released a statement denouncing the suit’s allegations as “frivolous and unfounded” and cast the employees’ actions as an affront to team spirit. Unfortunately, only one of the plaintiffs still works for one of Zell’s newspapers, but he made his current employees think twice about joining the other side.
Full statement: “The lawsuit filed yesterday is filled with frivolous and unfounded allegations, and I hope every partner in this company is as outraged as I am at having to spend the time and money required to defend ourselves against it. The media industry is in crisis, the advertising environment is extremely difficult and the economy is in turmoil. The overwhelming majority of our employees have taken up the challenge—they are working hard, leading by example, and devoting themselves to re-inventing our businesses by developing new and innovative products for our readers, viewers and advertisers. As a company we are attacking our problems and revolutionizing the media industry.
“This lawsuit is a mere distraction, and we will work quickly to see that it is dismissed. It will not deter us from completing the work ahead.”
Zell’s internal memo (via Romenesko):
From: Talk to Sam
Sent: Wednesday, September 17, 2008 4:53 PM
Subject: We’re In This Together
We are about to release a statement on the lawsuit filed yesterday by a staffer at the LA Times and several former Times employees. I want to share it with you first, but I also want to stress that as we work to fix our company, we are all in this together.
As newspaper advertising revenues have declined severely over the last several months, we’ve had to take some tough steps. We’re not alone, of course — the entire publishing industry is trying to deal with the challenges posed by a tough advertising environment and an economy in turmoil. At Tribune, we’re making tremendous progress — reinventing our newspapers, expanding television news, growing WGN America, and developing a new Internet platform. We’re being watched and imitated.
The overwhelming majority of our employees have risen to the occasion — they are working extremely hard, innovating as never before, trying new things, pushing the envelope. They are using their own best judgment and questioning authority when they need to –something employees at this company rarely did in the past.
But there is a difference between questioning authority or challenging the “business as usual attitude,” and maligning the company in public. That’s just bad judgment and does no one any good. It’s a distraction that’s unnecessary.
We are partners. We need to act like it.
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