OLD Media Moves

What Zell's purchase of Tribune Co. means to its business desks

April 2, 2007

Posted by Chris Roush

Billionaire Sam Zell’s pending acquisition of the Tribune Co. for $8.2 billion means that the business desks of some of the top newspapers in the country will have a new boss.

Sam ZellAnd the business news sections of the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Baltimore Sun and The Sun-Sentinel in South Florida are among the best in the industry, as illustrated by their SABEW Best in Business awards in recent years.

I’m going to take a view that this change in ownership means good things for business news coverage at these papers. Zell has owned media companies in the past, and there is no indication that he ever meddled in their news-gathering functions. In comparison, those who were running the Tribune were making cuts to the business sections at these papers, most notably in the form of less space for stock listings and not filling open reporter and editor slots.

In addition, I am going to assume that Zell won’t turn around and flip the operations in an IPO a few years down the road. As a private company, these papers will be able to invest in improving the content without having to worry about shareholders who want higher EPS numbers every quarter. That could mean more money down the road for these business sections.

Lastly, Zell is an astute businessman whose career has been covered in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Fortune, BusinessWeek and other top-notch business publications. If he has read his press clippings — and I’ve never met a CEO who ignores them — then he knows what quality business journalism looks like and what it means to a media company.

As an example, take a look at what Fortune is doing here. They’re taking reader’s questions for Zell and will provide the answers in an upcoming issue of the magazine. It’s obvious he knows the importance of communicating through the business news media.

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