Exec will be clear No. 2 to Sam Zell

Tribune Co. has upped Randy Michaels to chief operating officer and given him oversight of the company’s two largest newspapers, the Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune.

Move anoints Michaels as the clear No. 2 at Tribune to chairman-CEO Sam Zell. Zell recruited Michaels, an experienced TV and radio station operator, to serve as Tribune’s exec veep and CEO of Tribune’s interactive and broadcasting units last year, after Zell completed the complex buyout deal that took Tribune private under his control.

Michaels already had oversight of Tribune’s six newspapers in smaller markets, including the Baltimore Sun, Hartford Courant and Orlando Sentinel.

L.A. Times publisher David Hiller and Chicago Tribune publisher Scott Smith had been reporting directly to Zell but will now report to Michaels.

In announcing the promotion, Zell called Michaels “exactly what Tribune needs to keep moving forward — smart, decisive, relentless, irreverent, fun and cutting edge.”

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