A Zell-off hits Tribune – SIGNIFICANT EROSION | N.Y., L.A. newspapers may join Cubs on block

April 18, 2008

BY DAVID ROEDER droeder@suntimes.com

Sam Zell, Tribune Co. chairman, acknowledged Thursday that declining revenues and huge looming debt will force him to sell some of the media conglomerate’s prized but tarnished assets.

The selloff could concentrate on the company’s newspapers, the source of the money trouble. Zell and top lieutenants told analysts in a conference call that print revenues are down by double-digit percentages while the company’s broadcast stations are reporting stable numbers.

“Results this year, year-to-date, are significantly worse than we had expected,” Zell told representatives of firms who follow trading in Tribune debt.

Zell also said he’s still having “meaningful discussions” over selling Wrigley Field, home of the Chicago Cubs, to a state agency. He wants to sell the Cubs as well but hatched a plan to sell the ballpark separately to maximize returns.

But the deal has encountered opposition because under one variation, it would divert sales taxes to pay for the park. Mayor Daley has criticized the idea, state lawmakers are cool to it and no prominent politician besides Gov. Blagojevich and former Gov. James Thompson has endorsed it. Thompson is negotiating the Wrigley deal as chairman of the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority.

In the conference call, Zell did not get into the politics. “We are trying to do what we think is an optimal transaction” with the state agency, he said.

Zell then said he expects to publish detailed information on the baseball franchise in 10 days to 2

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