L.A. Times publisher in sight

Publication eyes former DirecTV chief

Former DirecTV chief Eddy Hartenstein has in fact emerged as the front-runner for the publisher’s post at the Los Angeles Times, Tribune Co. insiders said (Daily Variety, July 15).

Hartenstein is an unusual candidate for the job, but that’s likely working in his favor as Tribune’s new bosses seek a wholesale “reinvention” of the company’s newspapers. An engineer by training, Hartenstein was one of the founders of DirecTV in 1990, serving as its prexy and later chairman and CEO through its acquisition by News Corp. in 2003.

If he gets the gig, Tribune brass would likely counter inevitable questions about Hartenstein’s lack of publishing experience by emphasizing his role in building the successful satcasting business that broke ground technologically and loosened cable’s monopoly on the subscription TV market.

After leaving DirecTV, Hartenstein established a Santa Monica-based investment fund, HD Partners, with four other DirecTV alums. HP Partners, which raised $150 million in a public offering in 2006, struck a deal last year to buy the National Hod Rod Assn., but the transaction ultimately fell through and HP Partners dissolved after redistributing its coin to shareholders earlier this year, according to the company’s website.

The latest executive turmoil at the top of the L.A. Times came earlier this month, when publisher David Hiller was forced out after less than two years in the post. His departure coincided with the layoffs of about 250 staffers, including 150 from editorial, in the face of declining ad revenue and a weakening economy.

A Los Angeles Times spokesman declined comment on Hartenstein. A Tribune spokesman would only say that the search for Hiller’s successor “is continuing.”

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