- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 20, 2010

NEW YORK (AP) — The head of Tribune Co. plans to resign by the end of the week, the Chicago Tribune reported Wednesday, after assertions that he helped foster a sexist, “frat house” corporate culture since joining the company in 2007.

Citing unidentified sources familiar with the situation, the newspaper reported that CEO Randy Michaels and the company’s board have both decided the scandal is distracting employees and complicating the company’s efforts to emerge from Chapter 11 protection.

A spokesman for the company did not immediately return calls seeking comment.

It would be the second recent high-profile departure for Tribune Co. Last Wednesday, Chief Innovation Officer Lee Abrams stepped down after sending an e-mail to staff with links to a parody news report containing profanity and nudity.

The e-mail landed at an especially sensitive moment, coming just after an unflattering portrait of the company’s management in the New York Times. The report suggested that the iconic publisher has begun to resemble a fraternity house, “complete with poker parties, juke boxes and pervasive sex talk.”

Mr. Michaels, a veteran of the radio industry, pushed back in a memo to employees the night before the story was published in the Oct. 6 edition of the Times, saying, “Our culture is NOT about being offensive or hurtful.”

Tribune Co., which owns the Los Angles Times and a stable of broadcast properties along with its namesake newspaper, has been struggling though contentious bankruptcy proceedings since December of 2008.

Sam Zell, the Chicago real estate magnate, took the company private in 2007 in a deal that loaded the company with debt just as the worst advertising slump in memory slammed into the newspaper industry.

The complicated deal has come under intense scrutiny from Tribune Co.’s creditors during the Chapter 11 case.

The next few weeks will be critical as Tribune Co. looks to win support for a new reorganization plan.

The Chicago Tribune reported Wednesday that Mr. Michaels will be replaced by a four-member committee that will lead the company until its new owners take control following the Chapter 11 case.

The committee will reportedly include Eddy Hartenstein, publisher of the Los Angeles Times; Tony Hunter, publisher of the Chicago Tribune Media Group; Nils Larsen, Tribune Co. chief investment officer; and Don Liebentritt, the company’s chief restructuring officer.

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