Vindication Of A Sort

Sam Zell finally confessed that he screwed up. Back on December 10, 2008, I wrote in “Tribune Troubles” that he had gambled with money belonging to Tribune Company employees and retirees to transform the company from a public stock operation into a private corporation. Not long after the transformation occurred, he lost all that dough and had to go Chapter 11.

Now he says, “I made a mistake. I was too optimistic in terms of the newspaper’s ability to maintain its position.”

That’s it? No, “Well, I think we should honor our contracts”? How about, “I’m willing to take some of the megamillions I’m going to make on selling the Cubs to restore some money to these folks”?

I never have understood why media companies own sports teams. (Cablevision with the Knicks and Rangers; News Corp. with the Dodgers; New York Times with part interest in the Red Sox – I mean for city loyalty couldn’t the Times at least have part of the Yanks or Mets?) Somehow the skills and knowledge required to run a successful (well more or less successful) news operation don’t transfer well to picking good pitchers, point guards, and puck handlers. Since Mr. Z. made his money in real estate, the skills he brought to running newspapers, television stations, or baseball teams do not appear to have transferred at all.

But he is a gambler, so maybe in the long run he’ll know when to fold ‘em.

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