Economy, ad environment made for challenging year, chairman-CEO sez

The Tribune media group more than doubled its fourth-quarter profit thanks to a gain in the sale of investment stock, but the ongoing advertising slump chopped its annual earnings in half.

The Chicago-based company said Thursday that 12-month net income totaled $111.1 million, down from $224.4 million in 2000. Annual operating revenue rose 6% to $5.25 billion, but the growth was largely attributable to acquisitions, including Los Angeles Times parent Times Mirror.

Tribune reported $106.8 million in net income for the final quarter. The period’s bottom line was bolstered by $61.9 million in gains on investments, including profit from selling a block of AOL Time Warner shares.

Quarterly revenue fell 13% to $1.32 billion.

Restructuring charges totaled $6.9 million in the latest quarter, $152 million for the full year.

“The impact of the cost-saving measures announced in June 2001 began taking effect in the fourth quarter and will continue into 2002,” Tribune prexy Dennis FitzSimons said.

“The downturn in the economy and a difficult advertising environment made this a challenging year for us,” chairman-CEO John Madigan said. “The tragic events of Sept. 11 increased our newsgathering costs and tested our people. But I have never been more proud of the journalism delivered by our newspapers, television and radio stations and by our Web sites.”

Tribune owns 11 daily newspapers and 23 TV stations, as well as several radio and online properties. It also operates various other businesses, including the Chicago Cubs pro baseball franchise.

Tribune shares gained 40¢ to close at $38.14 on Thursday.

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