Tuesday, December 09, 2008

"Trib Explodes"....Read All About It In The errr Trib?!?..!!

Only last week in "Of Perfect Storms and Horses' Asses" did I lament the disingenuity of blaming A Perfect Storm for what was almost certainly human errors of judgment. But yesterday, the Chicago Tribune itself reported that Mr Zell blamed none other than "A Perfect Storm" for the woes of his highly leveraged buyout of the windy city's venerable broadsheet.

Sam Zell's timing was near-perfect in pulling the rip-cord on Equity Office Properties as put onto a pedestal here, but he must be called out in blaming the exogenuous environment for the Trib's travails. For it had virtually everything to do with the $13bn debt-laden financial structure Mr Zell sought-out and engineered, as evidenced by the ho-hum (relatively speaking, of course) reaction of The Washington Post Co. to the present financial and economic dislocation. Even the New York times, itself wounded from the turmoil, sports a comfortable billion of equity market value. Depending upon one's view of course. Mr Zell's decision to employ boatloads of debt and NOT put up copious equity might be seen as brilliant, shifting as it did, the majority of risk to the now-forlorn lenders for his pecadillo - a participation for which they are undoubtedly experiencing so-called "lenders-regret" (those with jobs at least). That said, it IS rather insulting to the employees and other constituents of the Trib web to lay the blame somewhere else - not least that phony cesspit of non mea culpa called The Perfect Storm.

Of course hardship is becoming more widespread. The Trib is not the only to suffer, and certainly will not be the last to seek protection from creditors. And sheltering both workers and constituents from reality serves little purpose in the longer run where business models are also unsustainable in the longer run. But the unwillingness of The Captain to speak frankly about motives and structures and absolve himself of culpability too, serves little purpose other than to prevent Mr Zells own ego-cleansing and vilification. For while Mr Zell will be stung for some chump change (in comparison to his EOP bonanza), he will NOT, unlike employees - who will it must be said - bear the brunt of the adjustment, go down with the proverbial ship.

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