Sunday, April 01, 2007

Interesting Take On Zell In His HomeTown Paper - The Chicago Tribune!

A somewhat... more favorable... view of Mr. Zell in his local paper. It's long, but worth reading every word:

Tribune board weighs Zell's new offer

By Michael Oneal and David Greising
Tribune staff reporters

April 2, 2007, 1:26 AM CDT

Tribune Co.'s board of directors negotiated late into Sunday night on a deal aimed at handing control of the 159-year-old Chicago Tribune and other major media properties to maverick Chicago billionaire Sam Zell for $13 billion.

If Tribune's board can work out the last-minute details on a revised bid that raised Zell's price to $34 a share, one of the most buttoned-down corporations in America would be controlled by Zell, who has relished a life and career as an outsider from his contrarian investment philosophy to his full-throttle lifestyle.

Zell's bid seemed positioned to trump an 11th-hour offer from rival billionaires Ron Burkle and Eli Broad of Los Angeles. Though Zell's initial $33-a-share bid fell short of the Burkle and Broad offer of $34 a share, Zell matched them late Sunday and Tribune's board seemed to be leaning his way.

The situation was still fluid, and sources cautioned that a deal might not be completed. Tribune directors were hoping to finalize a pact before markets open Monday morning.

Zell, who did not even submit a bid before the company's initial deadline, seemed to jump into the driver's seat in mid-February by suggesting his offer could be financed with the help of a tax-efficient employee stock ownership plan, or ESOP. Broad and Burkle countered with their own ESOP late last week as the Tribune's self-imposed March 31 deadline loomed.

The deal, which would return Tribune to private ownership, would make the company one of the most heavily-indebted enterprises in the media industry at a time of falling readership and declining advertising revenues. But Zell likes to say a true entrepreneur has unending self-confidence--that he doesn't see risk; he sees only solutions.

That might explain why the flamboyant Chicago real estate magnate believes he can transform Tribune Co. even while the industry is an unprecedented state of siege from the Internet...

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