Eisner calls Tribune ‘fantastic’ but downplays reports he is being considered as its chairman

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Eisner downplays reports he may run Tribune

LOS ANGELES — Former Disney CEO Michael Eisner on Tuesday downplayed reports that he is being considered to head media company Tribune Co. after it exits bankruptcy protection.

Eisner, 68, told a St. Louis radio station that journalists had read more into his association with Tribune than was real.

“I guess somebody in the media put one and one and added it up to two,” Eisner told “The McGraw Millhaven Show” on KTRS. “It really adds up to minus one and a half.”

Eisner said he had invested in Tribune debt and acknowledged “I know all the people involved” in its restructuring. Negotiations continue on a reorganization plan.

Eisner is a very close friend of John Angelo, co-founder of Angelo, Gordon & Co. The private equity firm owns much of Tribune debt and may own part of the company after it emerges from Chapter 11.

In fact, Angelo and his partner Michael Gordon are the subject of the final chapter in Eisner’s new book “Working Together: Why Great Partnerships Succeed,” which publisher HarperCollins is releasing Tuesday.

In the chapter, Eisner writes that he has known Angelo since childhood and that their families go back to Eisner and Angelo’s grandparents, who were close friends. Their families account for “five generations and counting of close friendship,” Eisner writes, noting that he has visited Angelo at his New York office “at least a dozen times.”

Tribune is the owner of the Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times and other daily newspapers and broadcast stations. Like most newspaper companies, Tribune suffered steep advertising declines during the recession. It sought bankruptcy protection in 2008 following a buyout engineered by real estate mogul Sam Zell that took the company private but loaded it with more debt than it could handle.

The Times and the Tribune reported last month that Eisner was being considered for a leadership role, specifically as chairman. Tribune spokesman Gary Weitman has declined comment, and Angelo, Gordon hasn’t returned multiple calls related to the bankruptcy case and its role with Tribune.

Eisner simply called himself “an investor” in a good company.

“The Tribune Co. is a fantastic company with fantastic assets but that doesn’t mean I’m going to have anything to do with it,” he said.

Eisner resigned as CEO of The Walt Disney Co. in 2005 after leading the media and theme park company for 21 years. He led Disney to huge success in the 1980s but in his final years clashed with dissident stockholders including the late Roy E. Disney, Walt Disney’s nephew.

will not be displayed