Tribune Co., parent of the Los Angeles Times, Tuesday announced that it had hired radio veteran Lee Abrams as its first-ever chief innovation officer, "responsible for innovation across Tribune's publishing, broadcasting and interactive divisions."
Abrams, 55, was senior vice president and chief creative officer at XM Satellite Radio Holdings Inc., where he developed shows featuring the likes of Bob Dylan, Snoop Dogg, Willie Nelson, Quincy Jones and Wynton Marsalis. In a long career, he helped pioneer FM radio's successful album-oriented rock format, in which stations would play a half-dozen or more songs from an album rather than just the one or two that had been released as singles.
"Lee is the most formidable creative thinker in the media business today," Randy Michaels, Tribune's president of broadcasting and interactive, said in a statement Tuesday. "Lee's going to pump new life into our content, re-energize our brands and get people thinking and working together like they never have before." Michaels also is a former radio programming whiz.
Abrams, who takes the job April 1 and will report directly to Michaels, was quoted in the statement as saying: "We have the resources to pioneer a new age of information and entertainment that reinvents and enlightens -- and that is exactly what we are going to do!"
Besides The Times, Chicago-based Tribune owns KTLA-TV Channel 5, the Chicago Tribune, the Chicago Cubs baseball team and other newspapers and TV stations around the country.
On his personal blog (leeabrams.blogspot.com) this month, Abrams mused about how a newspaper might help its Internet site stand out from the crowd. "Maybe a slogan that's not hokey, marketing speak or typical could help define the Web strategy," he wrote. Slogans such as "The Universe at Your Finger" or "Everything . . . All the Time" might give a newspaper site some "character" and suggest "the unbelievable depth of information," he wrote.
Abrams' job at XM was potentially at risk in a pending marriage with archrival Sirius Satellite Radio Inc. The transaction, announced in February 2007, is under antitrust review by the Federal Communications Commission.
If the deal goes through, the merged entity would be run by Sirius Chief Executive Mel Karmazin. Part of the rationale for the deal was the elimination of duplicative positions. XM's CEO resigned last summer in anticipation of the deal.