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Tribune to accelerate executive pay on sale

Leaders of The Times' parent firm will receive deferred compensation immediately should a new owner take control.

October 25, 2006|Thomas S. Mulligan | Times Staff Writer

Tribune Co., preparing for a possible sale or major restructuring, has taken steps to make deferred pay and benefits for its top officers and other "highly compensated employees" payable immediately in case of a change of ownership, the company said in a filing Tuesday.

Tribune is the parent of the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune, the Chicago Cubs baseball team, KTLA-TV Channel 5 and other media properties.

On Oct. 18, according to the filing, Tribune's board approved amendments to supplemental retirement, supplemental defined contribution and bonus deferral plans to add language relating to a possible takeover of the company.

No financial figures were included about how the changes would affect Tribune's top executives.

"It accelerates payment of previously earned compensation in the event of a change of control," Ruthellyn Musil, senior vice president for corporate relations, said Tuesday.

No new benefits were added, she said.

The plans are not limited to the top five corporate officers -- led by Chairman and Chief Executive Dennis J. FitzSimons -- whose compensation must be disclosed in the company's proxy statements, Musil said, but she declined to say how many employees were covered.

Adopting such amendments is "kind of a normal business practice for a company in our situation," Musil added.

Tribune announced last month that it had hired Citigroup Inc. and Merrill Lynch & Co. to advise it on strategic options, in effect putting the company "in play," in Wall Street parlance.

Several private-equity companies and wealthy individuals have approached the bankers to express interest in buying Tribune or certain company assets, said people who are familiar with the process.

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