Tribune hires former DirecTV CEO to run LA Times

SAN FRANCISCO Sat Aug 16, 2008 2:22pm EDT

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Tribune Co has appointed the former chief executive of satellite television provider DirecTV as publisher of the Los Angeles Times, the paper said in its Saturday edition.

Eddy Hartenstein will oversee Tribune's largest newspaper in what is the company's latest move to bring in talent from other industries to save the ailing business.

Hartenstein, 57, replaces David Hiller, who resigned as publisher in July. Tribune and Times officials, as well as Hartenstein, were not immediately available for comment.

The Times, like most U.S. newspapers, has been struggling with a steep drop in advertising revenue brought on by U.S. economic woes and a migration of readers to the Internet.

Tribune, which earlier this week reported a 15 percent drop in publishing advertising revenue, has brought in executives from the radio and television business to jolt the company out of what new owner Sam Zell calls its complacent culture.

Zell has brought on executives such as Randy Michaels, former chief executive of Clear Channel Communications, and former XM Satellite Radio Chief Creative Officer Lee Abrams, to help run Tribune.

The real estate magnate took Tribune private in an $8.2 billion deal last year that has loaded up the company with billions in debt -- $12.5 billion at the end of the second quarter, according to this week's financial results.

To pay off that debt, Tribune is trying to sell properties like the Chicago Cubs and the baseball team's storied home, Wrigley Field. It has sold off 97 percent of Newsday newspaper on Long Island, New York, to Cablevision Systems Corp, which is based there.

So far, the company has declined to say what it will do with the Los Angeles Times.

Media reports say interested buyers include music mogul David Geffen, but sources inside Tribune and others have indicated that Zell likely will hang on to the paper.

In the meantime, Tribune has cut jobs at the Times as well as its other papers, joining a list of media companies that include Gannett Co Inc, The New York Times and The Washington Post Co.

(Editing by Xavier Briand)

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