Boobs, Poker, and Sex on the Balcony: Tribune Co. Gets Slammed in the Times

Tribune CEO Randy Michaels.
Sun-Sentinel

staffers are buzzing this morning about a

New York Times

article that makes their corporate bosses look like overgrown extras from

Anchorman

.

The Tribune Co., which is headquartered in Chicago and owns the Los Angeles Times and the Chicago Tribune as well as the Sentinel, is run by a bunch of guys who make lewd jokes and play poker while their company drowns in bankruptcy, according to the Times exposé by David Carr.

Last night, Tribune CEO Randy Michaels sent an email to Sentinel staffers disputing the

story. He wrote:

Mr. Carr has made clear that he is digging up these old allegations because he believes that decisions about the company's management are about to be made, and he wants to influence those decisions.  Mr. Carr knows that an outside firm investigated the most substantial of these allegations, and that they were found to be without substance.   Mr. Carr intends to use them anyway.

But Michaels is fighting an uphill battle. The article's highlights include:

1. An allegation that Michaels, in the presence of other senior execs, offered to pay a hotel waitress $100 to show her breasts. (Michaels denied the allegation through a spokesman.)

2. An anonymous allegation that a senior company executive and female employee were spotted by a security guard having sex on the balcony of the Tribune building in Chicago.

The letter also suggested that a senior executive and a female employee had been discovered by a security guard engaged in a consensual sexual act on the 22nd-floor balcony. The board took the allegation seriously enough that it hired an independent law firm to investigate it. A company spokesman said the investigation found that the executive and the woman denied the incident and the inquiry could find no evidence that such an incident had occurred or that any harassment had taken place. But a person who worked in security at the time confirmed to The New York Times that a security guard reported seeing the incident. That person declined to be identified because of the sensitivity of the issue.

3. A scene in which top execs gleefully smoked cigars and played poker in one of the Tribune Tower's most hallowed rooms, the former office of Col. Robert R. McCormick, a grandson of the company's founder.

Mr. Phillips posted pictures of the party on his Facebook  page, showing Mr. Michaels and Mr. Chase, along with Lee Abrams, a former radio programmer who had joined Tribune earlier that year, playing poker and drinking in the ornate office.

The Chicago media writer Robert Feder first reported about the Facebook photographs.  "We are in the office of the guy who ran the company from the 1920s to 1955," Mr. Phillips wrote on his Facebook page. "It's normally a shrine. We pretty much desecrated it with gambling, booze and cigars."

There's plenty more dirt, including an allegation, by Ann Marie Lipinski, former editor of the Chicago Tribune, that Tribune owner Sam Zell tried to influence the paper's coverage of disgraced former Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

Michaels, sounding remarkably like a politician who might be criticized by one of his papers, dismissed it all as a smear job. He wrote in his email:

It is our intention to have creative environment.  A creative culture must be built on a foundation of respect for each other.  Our goal is an environment where people are free to speak up, free to challenge authority, and free to fail on the way to success.  Our culture is NOT about being offensive or hurtful.  This is supported by our Harassment Policy.  It's in the Employee Handbook.

Ah, the Employee Handbook. That should make everyone feel better.


Sponsor Content

Newsletters

All-access pass to the top stories, events and offers around town.

  • Top Stories
    Send:

Newsletters

All-access pass to top stories, events and offers around town.

Sign Up >

No Thanks!

Remind Me Later >