Does Tribune Co. Really Need Michael Eisner?

Bankrupt shell of a once-proud media company Tribune Co. is desperate. Desperate enough to try TV news without anchors. Desperate enough to give a seemingly-high jester an important management job. But are they really desperate enough to hire Michael Eisner?

Not that Eisner has anything better to do these days! The former Disney chairman and host of a minor CNBC talk show would probably welcome the chance to head a major media company again. The LA Times says that Eisner is a real candidate to take over leadership of the company from gnomish asshole Sam Zell, who can head on back into real estate and leave this newspaper nightmare behind him (unlike Tribune's employees).

It would certainly be a challenge. The bankruptcy proceedings of Tribune are still a mess. The company's leadership ranks need to be wiped clean. Its PR over the last several years has been awful. Eisner's been running an investment firm since leaving Disney, and he's had moderate success in the online media space. He told Variety that he's been buying up Tribune Co. debt, saying "The salvation of the newspaper is some kind of pay arrangement [online], which will evolve into something significant." And as Peter Lauria points out, Eisner has the experience and connections to perhaps help better leverage Tribune's TV assets, and its brand in general.

Then again: everyone knows that the salvation of the newspaper is "some kind of pay arrangement" online. News Corp and the New York Times Co., among others, have been at work on their paywalls for some time now. Tribune's newspapers have been decimated under Zell's ownership. Michael Eisner—and here, we're making a bold prediction—will not be the man to save the newspaper industry. In fact, it's hard to see what he brings to the table except a powerful name, powerful friends, and an affinity for the company. Sure, there's something to be said for having all three of those things. But if Tribune really wants to survive long-term, it needs bold media thinker who knows and believes in both print journalism and the internet, and has the management savvy to try to bring back a company that's been horribly messed up in the past decade. They need something damn near to a miracle worker, in other words. It's a hard fucking job. And it's difficult to believe Michael Eisner really wants to work that hard.

[Photo via Getty]