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It’s Official: Tribune Goes Private; Zell Takes Over, Invests Extra $65 Million

Tribune Company (NYSE: TRB) has completed its going-private transaction and will operate under the Tribune Employee Stock Ownership Plan (Tribune ESOP) with Chicago real estate investor Sam Zell, who financed the $8.2 billion buyout, taking on the roles of chairman of the board and CEO. Zell added $65 million on top of his initial investment of $250 million, which brought his total investment up to $315 million. The deal appeared to be briefly held up; according to reports, bankers were concerned about losing money due to increasingly unstable credit markets and were scouring company records before committing to fund the transaction. Release

Update: Chicago Tribune: In a wide ranging interview held in his sixth-floor office in Chicago’s West Loop, Zell was guarded about revealing specific plans or initiatives for Tribune’s operations, noting that it was “not even Day One yet.” But he made it clear that the top priority was figuring how to create a more logical structure to free up decision-making and encourage more innovation.”

— “Up until now, (Tribune) has been run as if it was one media company. I don’t believe that that’s the optimum structure … I believe in delegating authority and holding people responsible. But that’s not possible if directions come from the top.”

— “I spent six months trying to understand how this company runs, and as I watched and got more educated, it became clearer to me that (chief executive) is the role I needed to play. You call it CEO and I’ll call it owner.”