Tribune Memo to Staff: We’re Actually Making Money

Don’t tell the creditors that are chomping at the bit to push Sam Zell out of the Tribune Company so they can divvy up whatever assets are left after this elongated bankruptcy, but the publisher might actually be making some money these days.

According to a memo signed by Tribune’s COO Gerry Spector and chief executive Randy Michaels yesterday, “it appears we will finish the year with close to $500 million in operating cash flow.” This comes two months after Zell pleaded with the Delaware bankruptcy court for an extension on the amount of time needed to scrape his company out of bankruptcy.

Despite protests from the Tribune’s lenders (who most likely see Zell’s grace period as a stalling technique, and wished to take control of the reorganizing procedures), the Tribune execs promised that they could get the company out of bankruptcy by May 31. Though with this figure of $500 million now being floated around — over $100 million more than originally anticipated — that day may come sooner than the publisher anticipated. It’s one thing to boost morale with a memo about the tons of money you’re currently raking in, it’s quite another to do so with creditors breathing down your neck. Stay tuned as more information develops.

Full memo after the jump.

Read More: Tribune: We finished 2009 with close to $500 million in operating cash flow –Romenesko

Previously: Tribune Co.’s No Good, Very Bad Week, Tribune Plans To Emerge From Bankruptcy By May 31

From: Tribune Communications
Sent: Wednesday, January 20, 2010 13:18
Subject: Message from Randy and Gerry/2009 Financial Results

As we reach the midpoint of January, now is a good time to give you a quick update about our financial results for 2009. We’re still going through the numbers, but thanks to a stronger than expected performance by both the Broadcasting and Publishing Groups in the fourth quarter, it appears we will finish the year with close to $500 million in operating cash flow. Given that we started the year like most media companies, feeling as though we would be fighting for our very survival, this is truly a remarkable achievement.

Thank you for making it possible.

You should be proud. You worked hard, you innovated, you were aggressive, you kept expenses low, and you led from the front. We also got some help from outside the company-newsprint prices turned lower, retailers had a slightly better than expected holiday season, and the economy is improving a little bit.

It’s unclear whether these trends will continue, so we’ll have to work even faster in 2010. We’ll still have to keep our expenses in check and be as efficient as possible, but we’re optimistic about where we’re headed.

Thanks again for your hard work last year. We’re making great progress, let’s continue doing so in 2010.

Randy and Gerry