I predicted this back on July 29th, and the Los Angeles Times just announced it on their website. Eddy Hartenstein, the ex-chief of DirecTV, replaces David Hiller who was fired last month. This is the 3rd new publisher for the newspaper in 22 months and the 4th since Tribune Co took over. The 57-year-old rocket scientist (yes, really) is well-known to Hollywood as 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 it.
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 fvery stiff competition from cable. Hiring Hartenstein seems a smart move by Tribune Co owner Sam Zell. His first.
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. That’s exactly what Hartenstein told the newspaper for today’s story: “I love challenges. I love complex issues and problems, and this certainly met all that.” A Times reader since his boyhood in Alhambra, Hartenstein wasn’t put off by the Times’ “huge and daunting” problems, he told the paper. The Times said Sam approached Eddy about a month ago, after the two men met for the first time last fall. Hartenstein talked turkey with Zell, asking if the paper was just being dressed up for a sale (Zell promised the paper was “a keeper”) and whether he’d have enough autonomy (“You’re the publisher and CEO. It’s yours to run.”).