EXCLUSIVE: Reliable sources tell me that Eddy Hartenstein, the ex-chief of DirecTV, is under serious consideration to be the new Los Angeles Times publisher, replacing David Hiller who was fired this month. A deal for him isn’t done yet but he’s first choice on the short list. The 57-year-old rocket scientist (yes, really) is a name well-known to Hollywood since he was the Big Kahuna in the development of modern-day satellite television, serving as DirecTV’s CEO, chairman, vice chairman and president from the company’s inception in 1990 until 2004 when he left after Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp bought the company. OK, so why Hartenstein for LA Times publisher?
I’m told it’s because he understands subscription-based product and new media distribution after taking DirecTV from zero to 12.5 million subscribers despite facing very stiff competition from cable. Hiring Hartenstein would seem to be a smart move on the part of Tribune Co owner Sam Zell. But why is Hartenstein jumping on board journalism’s equivalent of the Titanic? “He doesn’t need a job, he needs an adventure,” one source explained to me. “He’s looking for the next bounce.” Hartenstein also served in senior executive positions at the satellite-based communications provider Hughes Communications and Equatorial Communications Services Company, a provider of telephony and data distribution services. Hartenstein was inducted into the Broadcasting and Cable Hall of Fame in 2002 and received an Emmy for lifetime achievement from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences in 2007.