Trib Suspends Lee Abrams

Lee Abrams, the former rock radio programmer turned chief innovation officer for Tribune Co., was suspended Wednesday (Oct. 13) for an inappropriate company memo he issued on Monday.

The infamous Abrams memo, which included sexually charged videos from The Onion, drew protests from employees, most notably Gerould Kern, editor of the Chicago Tribune. (Abrams is pictured at left.)

Abrams apologized for what he said was poor judgment, but it may have been too little too late, coming just days after The New York Times ran a front-page story on other raunchy and raucous behavior taking place in the halls of the formerly staid Tribune Co.

In a memo to employees, Tribune CEO Randy Michaels said Abrams would remain on suspension indefinitely and without pay.

“We’re in the process of determining further disciplinary action,” Michaels wrote. “Lee recognizes that the video was in extremely bad taste and that it offended employees—he has also apologized publicly. He reiterated those feelings again to me privately today. But, this is the kind of serious mistake that can’t be tolerated; we intend to address it promptly and forcefully.”

Tribune’s bad press comes just as the company is making progress to emerge from bankruptcy. On Tuesday, it announced a second agreement on a reorganization plan with more of its senior lenders and unsecured creditors. The company plans to file a reorganization plan and disclosure statement incorporating both settlements by the end of the week.

Here is the full text of Michaels’ memo, obtained by Mediaweek:

From: Tribune Communications
Sent: Wednesday, October 13, 2010 2:29 PM
Subject: Message from Randy Michaels/Lee Abrams Suspended

I want to let you know that today we made the decision to suspend Lee Abrams from his position as Tribune’s chief innovation officer. He will remain on suspension indefinitely and without pay while we review the circumstances surrounding the e-mail and video link he distributed on Monday. We’re in the process of determining further disciplinary action.

Lee recognizes that the video was in extremely bad taste and that it offended employees—he has also apologized publicly. He reiterated those feelings again to me privately today. But, this is the kind of serious mistake that can’t be tolerated; we intend to address it promptly and forcefully.

As I said last week, a creative culture must be built on a foundation of respect. Our culture is not about being offensive or hurtful. We encourage employees to speak up when they see or hear something that they find offensive, as a number of employees did with regard to this particular e-mail. I can assure you, you will be heard.

—Randy