Los Angeles Business Journal

Report: Southland Publishers Eye Tribune Papers

By Deborah Crowe Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Two Southern Californian publishers are considering bidding for Tribune Co.’s stable of newspapers, which includes the Los Angeles Times, according to news reports.

Bloomberg News reported late Tuesday that Chicago-based Tribune would put its print publication division on the block after exiting Chapter 11, which is expected by the end of the year. Reuters reported Wednesday that San Diego Union-Tribune owner Doug Manchester and Orange County Register owner Aaron Kushner are among those interested in buying all or part of the unit, which also includes the Chicago Tribune, Baltimore Sun and Orlando Sentinel.

Rubert Murdoch’s News Corp. also has expressed interest, particularly in Tribune’s East Coast newspapers, sources told Bloomberg.

Tribune’s controlling owners, which include downtown L.A.’s Oaktree Capital Management and JPMorgan Chase & Co, want to sell off the print business to focus on the company’s television stations, sources told Bloomberg and Reuters. In addition to eight daily newspapers, Tribune owns 23 television stations – including Los Angeles’s KTLA-TV Channel 5 and Chicago superstation WGN America – and has stakes in more than 50 websites.

Kushner, head of Freedom Communications Inc. in Santa Ana, told Reuters that his company would seriously consider a bid on some or all of the newspapers if they become available.

John Lynch, chief executive of the Union-Tribune, did not return calls for the Reuters report. Tribune and News Corp. officials did not comment on the reports.

Chicago real estate investor Sam Zell took control of Tribune in 2007 through a leveraged buyout that saddled it with $13 billion in debt. The company, which already was struggling with an industry-wide decline in advertising revenue, filed for Chapter 11 in late 2008.