Freedom Communications, parent of Orange County Register, files for bankruptcy -- again

 In this Dec. 27, 2012, file photo, Arts writer Richard Chang, center, works on his computer in the newsroom of the Orange County Register in Santa Ana, Calif. Freedom Communications Inc., owner of the Orange County Register, has filed for bankruptcy, and the newspaper
Freedom Communications Inc., owner of the Orange County Register, has filed for bankruptcy. Rich Mirman, Freedom's chief executive and publisher, says he expects the bankruptcy case to have no impact on day-to-day operations. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File)

The Orange County Register's parent company, Freedom Communications filed for bankruptcy protection Sunday.

Given the company's multiple financial problems, that hardly qualifies as a surprise. But the bankruptcy, which appears to have support from creditors as well as management, envisions sale to a group headed by publisher and CEO Rich Mirman, a former casino executive who has been running and restructuring the company for a year.

After Freedom's first bankruptcy in 2009, the company was taken over by former greeting card executive Aaron Kushner and a business partner.  Kushner's unorthodox strategy at the Register of emphasizing print, adding more than 100 newsroom staffers and expanding into adjacent counties received a lot of attention but  never achieved financial success.

Tribune Publishing, owner of the Los Angeles Times, which bought the Union Tribune of San Diego earlier this year, has dropped hints that it would also like to acquire the Register.  That would give it primacy in all three of the big counties in Southern  California.

It is unclear whether Tribune could bid against Mirman's group in bankruptcy court (or make an offer later),  But a quick route to Tribune's ambitions now appears to be blocked by the structure of the bankruptcy filing.


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