Tribune's Zell Out, Says Rival Sun-Times

samzell gesturing tbi

Tribune Co. boss Sam Zell — the self-styled “grave dancer” and billionaire investor — will soon be taken-over himself.

That’s according to a Chicago Sun-Times report today that says frustrated creditors are working on a reorganization plan that cuts Zell out.

Sun-Times: The motorcycle-riding billionaire, renowned for his deft touch with real estate and corporate turnarounds, took Tribune Co. private in late 2007 promising to energize the lumbering company. He piled on debt at exactly the wrong time, and a collapse in advertising for traditional media forced him to take the company to Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

Eight months after the filing, two sources familiar with the process said creditors are working on a reorganization plan that elbows Zell aside. The creditors, including investment banks owed $8.6 billion from Zell’s Tribune takeover, would stage a takeover of their own and sell off the company’s newspapers and broadcast stations as they see fit.

This may not be so bad for Zell. He called the Tribune purchase “the deal from hell” from the start, and by saving face with investment banks, he can use them to invest elsewhere.

Still, there will be plenty of critics. “This was a textbook case of a leverage buyout gone bad,” William Brandt Jr., a corporate turnaround expert, told the Sun-Times. “These were imbeciles who had no idea what they were doing.”

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