Chicago Tribune parent reports better results
By Michael Oneal
Tribune staff reporter
5:39 PM CST, January 20, 2010
Tribune Co. on Wednesday said it had generated a much better-than-expected $500 million in cash flow during 2009 and sought to make it easier for a bankruptcy judge to bless $45.6 million in bonuses tied to the results for 720 managers at the company.
In July, Tribune Co., owner of the Chicago Tribune, petitioned the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Delaware for permission to pay from $21.5 to around $67 million in bonuses through three separate performance-based plans.
The biggest was a continuation of Tribune Co.'s normal incentive bonus plan for both top and middle managers. The other two would reward a group of around 20 top managers for either navigating the bankruptcy process or "transforming" their business units.
A group of company unions objected to the request at a September court hearing, calling the bonuses top-heavy and too easy to earn. U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Kevin Carey has yet to rule as he prepares a formal opinion on the matter. Tribune Co. had originally requested that Carey rule on all three plans together. But on Wednesday, the company said it would be willing to have the court "bifurcate" its ruling so that the larger group of more than 700 managers could be rewarded in February for their 2009 performance.
Any payout would be based on how much cash flow the company generated relative to plan in 2009. The maximum payout would require a result 200 percent more than originally predicted.
In a separate note to employees Wednesday, Tribune Co. CEO Randy Michaels said that the company generated almost $500 million in cash flow during the year "thanks to a stronger than expected performance by both the Broadcasting and Publishing Groups in the fourth quarter." The results owe much to cost cutting efforts but Michaels noted that lower newsprint costs and a slightly better economy helped.
A spokesman said that level of cash flow exceeded the 200 percent threshold, meaning bonuses for the group of 720 would come in at a maximum of $45.6 million if approved. If the judge also approved the other two plans, they would pay out around $21 million to a much smaller group.
Copyright © 2010, Chicago Tribune
How about asking the Judge if some of this money can be used to provide severance for the soon to be laid-off 39 pressroom employees? They've made so many sacrifices for this newspaper, working nights, weekends and holidays away from their families for decades: while the bonus recipients celebrated with their children and relatives.
The Company's unwillingness to pay severance is not an economic matter: as a matter of fact, it has nothing to do with money: it is PERVERTED POWER and OBVIOUS PUNISHMENT for Organizing our shops.
Ask management why they feel these individuals don't deserve to be treated as fairly as the other production departments. The Union submitted a separation package proposal that many, if not all of you would agree to be fair and more than deserving. The Company apparently has the money to fund our proposal without having to give anything in return, hell, they've already taken everything and never given anything in return, why should we continue to suffer and management rewarded? SPEAK OUT AGAINST THIS TO MANAGEMENT, DEMAND EQUALITY AND FAIRNESS!
STOP THE PUNISHMENT, PAY THE SEVERANCE!