The shockingly sexist frat boy hijinks of top managers of the Tribune Company created an alienating workplace and "bankrupt culture" that helped send the financially troubled media firm into a tailspin, reports the New York Times. Just after radio exec Randy Michaels was hired by billionaire owner Sam Zell to help run the company, he allegedly offered $100 to a waitress to flash her breasts for a gathering of senior management at a Chicago hotel, the paper reports. "I have never seen anything like it," said one executive. “Here was this guy, who was responsible for all these people, getting drunk and saying this to a waitress who many of us knew."
Zell vowed to shake things up at the company when he took over in 2008, and warned: "There's a new sheriff in town." But this "sheriff" was hamstrung by a lack of journalism experience and "financial hubris," and apparently obsessed with raunchy sex jokes, the Times notes. A fake bio for a promoted female manager, for example, joked that she used to work at the fictitious restaurant "Knockers," and managers were overheard discussing workers' sexuality. The employee handbook was even rewritten to warn workers that they "might hear a joke you don't consider funny" because that was all part of the new "fun, creative" process. Less than a year after Zell bought the company, which includes the LA Times and Chicago Tribune, it toppled into the largest US media bankruptcy in history, with more than 4,200 people losing their jobs.