Tribune Company History
Tribune is one of the country’s leading multimedia companies, operating businesses in broadcasting, publishing, and interactive. The company’s broadcasting group owns or operates 23 television stations, WGN America on national cable, the national multicast network, Antenna TV and Chicago’s WGN-AM. In publishing, Tribune’s leading daily newspapers include the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Baltimore Sun, Sun Sentinel (South Florida), Orlando Sentinel, Hartford Courant, The Morning Call and Daily Press. Popular news and information websites complement Tribune’s print and broadcast properties and extend the company’s nationwide audience.
Tribune is well positioned in major markets with large Hispanic populations. The company publishes the daily Spanish-language newspaper Hoy in Los Angeles and Chicago, and weekly Spanish-language publications are offered in Central Florida and South Florida.
Tribune was founded on June 10, 1847, when the Chicago Tribune published its first edition. The original press run consisted of 400 copies printed on a hand press.
In October 1871, when the Great Chicago Fire raged through the city, the wooden building where the paper was printed was destroyed, as was most of the city. The Tribune reappeared two days later with an editorial declaring “Chicago Shall Rise Again.” The newspaper’s editor and part-owner, Joseph Medill, was elected mayor and led the city’s reconstruction. Medill gained full control of the newspaper in 1874 and guided it until his death in 1899.
Medill’s two grandsons, Robert R. McCormick and Joseph Medill Patterson, assumed leadership of the company in 1911. Chicago’s WGN Radio (720 AM) went on the air in 1924, its call letters reflecting the Chicago Tribune’s renowned slogan, “World’s Greatest Newspaper.” The station was an innovator from the start. It was first to broadcast the World Series, the Indianapolis 500 and the Kentucky Derby, and broke new ground by introducing microphones in the courtroom during the famous 1925 Scopes “monkey trial” in Tennessee. Today, Tribune’s original broadcast property is a 50,000-watt Midwest powerhouse.
Also in 1925, the company completed a new headquarters and one of Chicago’s first “skyscrapers.” The 40-story building known as Tribune Tower is a Chicago landmark and perhaps best known for the many historic stones and artifacts embedded in its limestone exterior.
Tribune entered the infant television industry in 1948, when it established WGN-TV in Chicago, followed by WPIX-TV in New York. Years later, the formation of Tribune Broadcasting Company in 1981 signaled the growing importance of television in the company’s business mix. Since 1978, when WGN-TV became a “superstation,” the Cubs have been aired to a national audience via cable. Today, WGN America reaches about 75 million U.S. homes outside Chicago through cable and direct broadcast satellite.
In 1983, after 136 years of private ownership, Tribune became a public company with an initial offering of 7.7 million shares of stock valued at $206 million.
Tribune grew dramatically during the 1990s, spurred by a loosening of federal regulations restricting television and radio ownership. This resulted in rapid consolidation within the broadcasting industry and Tribune expanded its broadcast holdings in the country’s top 40 markets. Through a series of acquisitions and investments, the company emerged as one of the largest owners and operators of television stations in the nation.
In June 2000, Tribune acquired Times Mirror Company, effectively doubling the size of the company and adding seven daily newspapers to the Tribune fold, headlined by the Los Angeles Times, The Baltimore Sun and the Hartford Courant.
In December of 2007, Tribune Company returned to private ownership through a leveraged buy-out transaction led by real estate entrepreneur Sam Zell. In late 2008, following a severe downturn in the economy and a prolonged advertising slump, Tribune filed for protection under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code.
The company emerged from bankruptcy on Dec. 31, 2012 with a new Board of Directors and management team, significant liquidity and a solid balance sheet.