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It’s official, Randy’s gone

As anticipated, today Randy Michaels, CEO of Tribune Company, formerly of Clear Channel, one of the grand architects behind the current state of commercial radio, resigned from his post at Tribune. This is how his former company’s flagship paper put it:

Having lost the support of many employees, his board and the creditors who will soon take over the bankrupt media company, Tribune Co. Chief Executive Randy Michaels resigned Friday, as the company’s board sought to end one of the most tumultuous episodes in the history of the 163-year-old Chicago institution.

The company will replace him with a four-member “executive council.” I don’t know whether they need four executives to fill his shoes, or whether it takes that many to clean up the mess left behind. The council will run the ship until the company emerges from bankruptcy and a new board of directors chooses its own CEO.

I don’t think I’ve masked my opinion that I think Randy Michaels’ expertise in running a media company is vastly overrated. Sure, he knows how to cut costs to the bone, run off talent and consolidate properties. Such tactics generally result in short-term gains from reduced operating costs. But they are not long term solutions.

However, his business approach is not what did him in. Instead it was his hubris. He was arrogant enough to think that his ability to quickly cut costs would justify his apparent desire to run his executive suite with a combination of Mad Men’s privileged white patriarchy and a sexually charged, and sexist, Animal House. He bet wrong on this.

Clear Channel was a different animal, frankly due in part to the radio business having been (and still being) much more white and male than the newspaper or TV business is now. By most accounts, Randy behaved no differently at Clear Channel in the late 90s than he did at Tribune in 2010. Anyone in Tribune Tower who is surprised by this outcome didn’t do his research, or didn’t care.

I’m glad to see that turning your company’s executive suite into a 1980s teen sex comedy is considered inappropriate enough to spur the resignation of a CEO who promotes it. Nevertheless, it’s unfortunate that he was even given the chance to do it in the first place, given Randy’s well documented history.

In my opinion Randy Michaels has no business running any company, especially not a large media company like Tribune. I’d hope that this is the last we’ll hear of Randy for a long time, but I fear it isn’t. Somewhere, there’s another newspaper, station or company to ruin.

To read more of how Randy Michaels’ swirled the bowl this year, see Robert Feder’s A year in the life of Tribune Co. — headline by headline.

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