If Tribune decides to sells its newspapers, which ones might someone (like Warren Buffett) buy?

Crain's Chicago Business

The Tribune Company is preparing to exit bankruptcy, and it's planning to create eight companies, one for each of its large English-language dailies, Lynne Marek reports. “This structure may make the assets more attractive to a potential buyer and makes it a cleaner transaction by putting the good assets in one place and carving out legacy costs,” restructuring consultant Dan Wikel tells Marek.

Speculation about whether Tribune might sell its newspapers post-bankruptcy is practically an Internet meme at this point. But a couple of the papers have generated more question-marked headlines than others.

The Los Angeles Times: Eli Broad told the Times earlier this month that he'd still like to buy the paper.

Broad said in an interview that he would like to "partner with others … maybe foundations or wealthy families" to take control of the newspaper. He said he has spoken to others about such an arrangement, but declined to name them.

Last summer, Shira Ovide wrote that the L.A. Times "because of reasons of history and business decisions, recently has operated separate and distinct from the rest of its corporate brethren. The rest of the Tribune papers were pushed to share more content and editorial resources; Los Angeles was more or less spared from those orders from Chicago HQ."

The Chicago Tribune: "people familiar with their thinking" told Marek the principals of Wrapports LLC, which owns the Chicago Sun-Times' publisher, "may be interested in purchasing the larger rival." Wrapports is also reportedly close to purchasing Chicago's venerable alt-weekly, the Reader. One interesting subplot to this particular parlor game: Journatic, the online-news startup the Chicago Tribune recently picked to run its suburban local coverage, used to provide real-estate coverage to the Sun-Times.

The Baltimore Sun: I had to go back to 2006 to find an article speculating on who might buy David Simon's old paper (Wait! How about David Simon?), but one of the names in this piece has some accidental plangency all these years later:

Media reports Tuesday said that one group bidding for Tribune consisted of Fort Worth, Texas-based Texas Pacific Group and Boston-based Thomas H. Lee Partners. Another bid was submitted by Boston-based Bain Capital.

After Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway bought most of Media General's newspapers last week, Buffett said he might buy more papers: "Any time we can add properties we like, to management we like, at a price we like, we’re ready to go.

Media General honcho Marshall Morton told the Winston-Salem Journal that Buffett wasn't interested in the company's Tampa Tribune (which competes with the Poynter-owned Tampa Bay Times) because it didn't fit Buffett's idea of a community paper: "The Richmond Times-Dispatch, which Media General considers a large paper and which is widely considered Virginia's paper of record, is, in Berkshire's perspective, a large community paper, he said."

By that standard, would any of Tribune's other papers, like the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, The Morning Call or even The Hartford Courant maybe interest Buffett? (Please note that this blog post's headline and last non-parenthetical line ended with the appropriate punctuation.)

Related: The Tribune Company is reportedly testing tablets it might offer to customers. (News & Tech)

  • Andrew Beaujon

    Andrew Beaujon reported on the media for Poynter from 2012 to 2015. He was previously arts editor at TBD.com and managing editor of Washington City Paper. He's the author of the 2006 book "Body Piercing Saved My Life," about Christian rock and evangelical Christian culture.


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