Tribune Taps NBCU Veteran Larry Wert to Head Local Broadcasting
Chicago-based exec to oversee company's 23 TV stations, WGN Radio; report directly to new CEO Liguori
By Melissa Grego -- Broadcasting & Cable, 2/13/2013 2:56:00 PM
Nils Larsen, president of Tribune Broadcasting, will assist Wert in the transition to his new position with Tribune, according to a company news release.
The move quashes any remaining speculation that Tribune is considering getting out of the TV station business under its new leadership and now that it is out of bankruptcy.
A Chicago native, Wert joined WMAQ as president/GM in January 1998. In April 2008, he was named president, central and western region, NBC Local Media, overseeing five NBC owned television stations: KNBC in Los Angeles, KNTV in San Francisco, KNSD in San Diego, KXAS in Dallas and WMAQ in Chicago. In September 2011, he was named exec VP, station initiatives for NBC owned stations.
"I grew up here, I spent most of my career here so I respect the great legacy of the Tribune co. I'm familiar with their great assets," Wert told B&C. "Their station footprint is significant in 36% of the country. I think there's an opportunity right now to be part of its future in a very positive way."
"Larry's talent, creativity, and broad television, digital and radio experience make him the ideal person to lead our local broadcasting and radio businesses," Liguori said in a statement. "Larry is also a skilled manager of people, an innovative programmer, and understands the important role our local TV news operations play in the communities we serve."
At WMAQ, Wert led the station's integration with Telemundo. Under his leadership the country's first bi-lingual co-located newsroom was unveiled in 2002. In addition, in December 2003, he led the launch of Chicago's first television broadcast street side studio at 401 N. Michigan Avenue, now known as Studio 5, according to a Tribune release.
Among Wert's professional claims to fame are having fired two big personalities, Howard Stern and Jerry Springer (he canceled the latter's show on WMAQ when he arrived at the station).
Wert says he's grateful for the support his bosses -- Valari Staab, Ted Harbert and Steve Burke -- at NBCU have provided him in his role and in making the decision to move on to Tribune. "Ironically I will be a pretty big customer of NBCU -- so I won't be completely away," he said, noting that Tribune stations license multiple NBCU syndicated properties including Jerry Springer, Maury and Wilkos. "There's no doubt NBC Chicago is on an upswing. I will miss the equity I have with my colleagues. But this new opportunity in my hometown is too unique to say no to."
Valari Staab, president of NBC Owned Television Stations, saluted the longtime WMAQ GM. "This is a rare and exciting opportunity for Larry to run a broadcast group and stay in his hometown of Chicago," she said. "I greatly appreciate his dedication and have truly enjoyed working with him over the last 18 months. I wish him the very best in his new role."
Wert, 56, got his start in the industry at Leo Burnett Advertising in Chicago in 1978. He went on to spend ten years with ABC in TV Sales in Los Angeles, New York and Chicago, and then to WLS (Chicago) as local sales manager.
In 1989, Wert was named president and GM of Evergreen's "The Loop" and AM 1000 in Chicago. In 1996, he was named president of Evergreen Media Corporation when it merged with Chancellor Broadcasting. He was promoted to senior VP, overseeing Chancellor's 13 radio properties in Chicago and Detroit before joining WMAQ.
There still the speculation of Tribune selling a few of its TV stations. I could picture Gannett getting WDCW DC... Sinclair getting KPLR St. Louis... Scripps getting WGNO New Orleans... maybe Hearst getting WNOL New Orleans, if Scripps doesn't want it... Belo getting KIAH Houston and KRCW Portland... and could picture KCPQ & KZJO Seattle and WTTV & WXIN Indianapolis under the FOX O&O umbrella. The stations I picture Tribune wanting to keep would have to be WPIX New York, KTLA LA, WGN Chicago, WPHL Philly, KDAF Dallas-Ft. Worth, and WSFL Miami.
Eric - 2/14/2013 2:24:00 AM EST
I live in the area and Larry is one of the nicest and sensible guys in this industry who took two dying breeds and turned it into something stellar. With Tribune, he'll have his work cut out for him, and one of his many challenges will be the fix the turmoil that's going on at WGN-AM Radio as that station has been in a steady freefall since the day Zell took Tribune over. With him gone and the remaining minions set to depart from there, Wert will do what he can to make this radio station and the TV stations much better and more tolerable to listen and watch respectively and maybe he gets rid of these horrible daytime shows in the meantime, and removes Compton and Larsen from their respective positions once and for all.
Jed - 2/13/2013 10:02:01 PM EST
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