Stop the presses: Sun-Times overdue on payments to Tribune

Robservations on the media beat:

  • No one’s supposed to know it, but the parent companies of the Chicago Tribune and the Sun-Times are on a collision course over unpaid bills. At issue are the $70 million-a-year contracts for Tribune Co. to print and distribute the Sun-Times and its suburban daily newspapers. (The distribution deal began in 2007, and the printing deal began in 2011.)  Just as Tribune Co. was emerging from bankruptcy at the end of December, Sun-Times owner Wrapports LLC paid only a fraction of what it owed, according to sources at both companies. Since then, nothing. Some see it as a sign of financial trouble at Wrapports, where advertising revenues have fallen far short of projections. Others see it as a strategic move to force a renegotiation of the agreement or as a precursor to a bid for the Tribune. Fearing that Tribune Co. could simply pull the plug, Wrapports has begun searching for alternate printing facilities. (Just a bluff? Who knows?) On the other hand, Wrapports chairman Michael Ferro appears to be gambling that the Tribune won’t put its No. 1 client out of business while it’s trying to attract a potential buyer. In the end, it all may wind up in court — if not on the front pages of both papers.

  • Tommy Austin, regional program manager for Clear Channel stations in St. Louis and Kansas, has been named vice president of programming for the company’s seven stations in Chicago, as well as program director of adult contemporary WLIT-FM (93.9). Effective Thursday, he succeeds Tony Coles, who was promoted to senior vice president of programming for Clear Channel’s West region. "Tommy Austin will bring more than two decades of programming experience to the Chicago market," Earl Jones, market president of Clear Channel Chicago, said in a statement. "We look forward to him providing his tremendous programming expertise to the market and enhancing our already high- performing stations."

  • A new leading insider has emerged to succeed Larry Wert as president and general manager of NBC 5. He’s David Doebler, who has been president and general manager of WVIT-TV, the NBC-owned station in Hartford, Connecticut, since 2005. A native of Philadelphia, Doebler previously headed WVTM-TV in Birmingham, Alabama. The final call is up to Valari Staab, president of NBC Owned Television Stations. The position here has been open since Wert stepped down last month to become president of Tribune Broadcasting stations. He officially started Monday.

  • Cumulus Media news/talk WLS-AM (890) posted a new photo of a happy and smiling Don and Roma Wade on its website Friday. It shows the station’s former morning personalities on their way to a hoe down in Florida. WLS afternoon host Roe Conn told listeners Monday the photo was posted at the Wades’ request in part to refute rumors on an unspecified blog that Don was gravely ill. The couple retired from WLS after more than 25 years last December to focus on Don’s health and medical treatment. Last fall he underwent surgery to remove a malignant brain tumor.

  • Marv Nyren, the last regional vice president and market manager of the Loop and Q101 under Emmis Communications ownership, has been tapped to oversee Clear Channel’s six-station cluster in Jacksonville, Florida. Nyren most recently was vice president of business development in the Midwest region for Clear Channel’s Total Traffic Network. With the sale of the Loop and Q101 to Merlin Media, he left Emmis after 12 years in 2011.

  • Thomas Beeby, the Chicago architect who designed the Harold Washington Library and other great structures, will be the subject of a new documentary. Hosted by Geoffrey Baer and produced by Daniel Andries, The Invisible Hand: Architect Thomas Beeby will premiere at 8pm Thursday on WTTW-Channel 11 (with repeats at 7:30pm Friday and 10:30pm Sunday). WTTW is also developing a companion website,, where viewers will be able to explore Beeby’s works in images, video and text.


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Laura Baginski, Editor (@TimeOutChicago)