Trib’s Zell: Buying Media Co. Was ‘A Mistake’

In a brutally frank admission today on TV, Sam Zell declared that buying the Tribune Co. was “a mistake.”

The Chicago Tribune columnist Phil Rosenthal writes about it online:

“Tribune Co. Chairman and Chief Executive Sam Zell told Bloomberg Television today that his heavily leveraged 2007 acquisition of the Chicago Tribune parent was ‘a mistake’ in that he did not anticipate the steep decline in the newspaper business.

“‘By definition, if you bought something and it’s now worth a great deal less, you made a mistake and I’m more than willing to say I made a mistake,’ Zell said. ‘I was too optimistic in terms of the newspaper’s ability to preserve its position.'”

Rosenthal continues:

“Zell, who took Tribune Co. private in a leveraged $8.2 billion deal, reiterated that his goal is to emerge from Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings begun in December to manage its $13 million in debt with its assets intact. But the billionaire investor also said the company is looking at ‘all options.’

“‘It’s very obvious that the newspaper model in its current form does not work and the sooner we all acknowledge that the better,’ Zell said. ‘Whether it be home delivery, whether it be giving content away for free — these are critical issues.

“‘We are seriously looking at everything because in effect the future of the newspaper industry is at risk today,’ he said, when pressed on the possibility of cutting back on delivery and print in favor of a greater role for digital publication.”