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Tribune Names Hartenstein Chief Executive Officer

Tribune Co. dissolved the four-person council that shared executive duties at the bankrupt newspaper company and named Los Angeles Times publisher Eddy Hartenstein chief executive officer.

Hartenstein, 60, is a former Hughes Electronics Corp. vice chairman and former CEO of DirecTV, the largest U.S. satellite-television provider.

“The board feels strongly that it is in Tribune’s best interests to have one person providing strategic vision and day-to-day direction for the company and its employees as we prepare to emerge from the Chapter 11 process,” Tribune Chairman Sam Zell said in a statement.

Tribune is near the end of a battle with its lowest-ranking creditors over how to reorganize the media company, which owns the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune, television and radio stations and stakes in cable channels.

Hartenstein’s job isn’t guaranteed to last beyond the company’s exit from bankruptcy. Under two competing reorganization plans, a new board would be appointed with the ability to replace him.

The main dispute over which plan to approve involves the way to resolve allegations that the 2007 buyout led by Zell, was a fraud on creditors. Noteholders, led by hedge fund Aurelius Capital Management LP, want to sue lenders that funded the $8 billion leveraged buyout.

JPMorgan Settlement

Tribune backs a plan that would settle the main lawsuits against the lenders, including JPMorgan Chase & Co., and allow claims against Zell to go forward. Zell and the lenders have denied wrongdoing in papers filed in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Wilmington, Delaware.

U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Kevin J. Carey is set to hear closing arguments about the two plans next month.

The bankruptcy case is In re Tribune Co., 08-bk-13141, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, District of Delaware (Wilmington).

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