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For week ended March 19, 2000 Posted 24 Feb 2001
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News about Mormons, Mormonism,
and the LDS Church
Sent on Mormon-News: 14Mar00

Summarized by Kent Larsen

Tribune Purchase Of Times-Mirror Leaves LDS CEO Rich But Tainted
Businessweek 14Mar00 B2
By Ronald Grover in Los Angeles

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA -- The $6.5 billion purchase of Times Mirror, parent of the Los Angeles Times by the Chicago-based Tribune Co., parent of the Chicago Tribune, leaves Times Mirror CEO Mark Willes, a member of the LDS Church and nephew of President Gordon B. Hinckley, without a job after five years of trying to change the way the Times is run. Willes leaves Times Mirror a multimillionaire, if he wasn't before, with his stock alone valued at more than $46 million. But the deal also leaves Willes somewhat tainted, both because of his controversial attempts to break down the 'chinese wall' between the editorial and business sides of the newspaper publishing business and because he failed to meet his goal of raising the circulation of the Times by 500,000 or 1 million subscribers and increase revenue.

Initially, Willes did have a significant effect on the Times, raising its stock price from a low of $18 a share to as high as $75 a share, mainly through cutting staff and closing some operations. But these efforts led Willes, who came to the Times with no experience in publishing after a career at cereal giant General Mills, to be called "Captain Crunch" and "The Cereal Killer." His moves were controversial as he shut down Times Mirror's New York City edition of its Long Island-based Newsday and closed the beloved but money-loosing Baltimore Evening Sun.

But after these efforts raised the stock price, it stalled as Willes' efforts to raise circulation failed to make significant headway. Then last year the Times under Willes leadership signed a controversial deal with Los Angeles' new Staples Center sports arena in which the newspaper focused on the arena in an issue of its Sunday magazine, sharing the $2 million in revenue from the issue with the Staples Center. Times staffers and former publisher Otis Chandler, a member of the Chandler family that controls Times Mirror, raised an outcry that the deal compromised the newspaper's editorial integrity, saying that with such a deal in place, readers couldn't depend on the newspaper's objectivity in covering the center.

The deal was evidently the last straw for the Chandler family, which had seen the stock price of Times mirror dip from $56 a share last year to below $50 a share recently. The Chandler family was also upset that Willes had sold the Sporting News to Microsoft billionaire Paul Allen and was unhappy with how slowly Willes was in getting the Times Mirror's newspapers onto the Internet.

So the Chandlers sold Times Mirror from under its CEO, Willes, who was surprised when he learned of the deal just two weeks ago. Willes had understood that the company couldn't be sold under a provision of the Chandler Trust, which owned a significant portion of the family's assets.

See also:

Of Mergers, Chinese Walls and Captain Crunch
Time Daily 13Mar00 B2
By Michael Eskenazi
The L.A. Times sells itself. In doing so, its controlling family finds a neat way out of a sticky situation

Times Mirror sale means end of era for 'cereal killer' CEO
B2 Boston Globe (AP) 14Mar00 B2
By Tom Verdin; Associated Press

'Cereal Killer' Willes Knocked Out Of The Box
New York NY Post 14Mar00 B2
By Keith J. Kelly

Times-Mirror Kin
New York NY Post 14Mar00 B2
By Keith J. Kelly


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