Zell: Tribune purchase a mistake

Economic crisis makes buyout a blunder

News flash! Sam Zell admits mistake. The Tribune Co. boss admitted in an interview with Bloomberg Television on Wednesday that the $8.2 billion buyout that he orchestrated in early 2007 was less than a great idea, given the timing and the swift deterioration of the newspaper biz in the past two years.

“If you bought something and it’s now worth a great deal less, you made a mistake,” Zell said. “And I’m more than willing to say I made a mistake. I was too optimistic in terms of the newspaper’s ability to preserve its position.”

Zell, known less than affectionately by some Tribune employees as “Yosemite Sam,” said the revenue declines at the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune and other newspapers had been far more severe than his number-crunchers predicted when the deal was being stitched together in 2007.

The company’s $13 billion bankruptcy filing in December was a necessary step to “stop the bleeding and preserve a great company.”

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