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The Evangelists: Dennis FitzSimons

Apr 23, 2001  •  Post A Comment

Title: Executive vice president of Tribune Co. and president of Tribune Broadcasting.
TV stations owned: 22, which cover 38 percent of the country.
Hometown: Queens, N.Y.
Education: Bachelor’s degree from Fordham University.
First job in the business: Time buyer for Grey Advertising in New York.
Background: When Mr. FitzSimons graduated from college with a political science degree, he became an account officer at a stock transfer company on Wall Street, and shortly after he was laid off in 1972. “A recession hit, and I was the last guy in, first guy out,” he said.
After working for Grey, he went to Blair and then Telerep and eventually moved to Viacom as director of advertising sales in 1981.
“I was a political science major without a lot of ideas as to what I was going to do after college,” Mr. FitzSimons said. “Initially, I thought I was going to go to law school. But I got into the advertising business and loved it. I realized that the guys who were selling time were making more than the people who were buying time. So I decided to check out that side of the business.”
After a stint as director of sales and marketing for WVIT-TV, Hartford, Conn., Mr. FitzSimons landed at Tribune in 1982 as WGN-TV’s sales director. Besides living in the Windy City, he liked Tribune because it had major market assets in Chicago and New York.
“WGN was just a fabulous TV station that I thought was undersold at the time, so to me it represented an enormous opportunity to come in and reorganize the sales department,” Mr. FitzSimons said, “also to have the opportunity to improve the station’s share of revenue in the Chicago market. We picked up about 5 revenue share points in one year.”
Mr. FitzSimons was promoted to president of Tribune Television in 1992 and to executive vice president of Tribune Broadcasting in 1994. Tribune had six stations in 1992. Under Mr. FitzSimons’ leadership, with acquisitions such as WPHL-TV, Philadelphia, WLVI-TV, Boston, and the Renaissance stations, the company grew to its current roster of 22 stations.
Now, as president of Tribune Broadcasting and executive vice president of Tribune Co., he is responsible for broadcasting, publishing, interactive and the Chicago Cubs. Last year Mr. FitzSimons was also instrumental in the Times-Mirror acquisition, which includes the Los Angeles Times, Newsday and the Hartford Courant.