FitzSimons Stepping Down as Tribune Chairman, CEO

Sam Zell-Led Buyout on Track for Completion by Year-End

With the Federal Communications Commission clearing the way for the closure of the Tribune buyout before year’s end, Dennis FitzSimons announced that he will step down as the company’s chairman and CEO.

FitzSimons will relinquish his role as the company’s chief, which he held since January 2003, as the buyout of the company led by real estate magnate Sam Zell is completed. FitzSimons will leave Tribune at the end of the year, according to the company.

“Dennis FitzSimons has provided Tribune with outstanding leadership through a challenging environment,” Zell said in a statement. “He helped to build the company into one of the nation’s premier media businesses and he has been instrumental in guiding Tribune to the closing of this historic transaction. I wish him much success in the next phase of his career.”

The deal to take the company private had been in limbo ahead of an FCC vote granting Tribune waivers on five markets where it had newspaper and broadcast cross-ownership. On Nov. 30, the FCC voted to grant the waivers, which the company claimed it needed 20 business days before the end of the year to keep the deal from falling apart.

“Sam Zell is an entrepreneur with a phenomenal track record,” FitzSimons said in a statement. “He has made a significant investment in Tribune that indicates his strong belief in the value of the company’s media assets. It was Sam’s creativity, personal commitment and investment that made this transaction possible.”

The FCC voted Tuesday to loosen newspaper-broadcast cross-ownership rules in the country’s 20 largest markets so long as eight independent voices remain and the television stations are not among the top four in the market.

Tribune’s stock was rattled in Wednesday’s trading by a report in the company's flagship Chicago Tribune that banks financing the take-private deal were scouring the company’s financials ahead of closing the transaction.

Bankers are likely sweating the prospect of selling $4.2 billion in debt to investors in an unreceptive credit market, leaving the banks on the hook.

Tribune stock hit a low of $30.81 per share Wednesday but closed the session at $33.18.