Chicago Tribune | L.A. Times | Bloomberg | Reuters
As the Tribune company ends a four-year period of bankruptcy today, it plans to sell all of its media properties, according to a report by Robert Channick.
Tribune Co. owns 23 television stations, including WGN-Ch. 9, WGN America, eight daily newspapers and other media assets, all of which the reorganization plan valued at $4.5 billion after cash distributions and new financing. Eventually, all the assets are expected to be sold, according to the new owners.
A financial analysis this year estimated the broadcast assets are worth $2.85 billion; a stake in the Food Network and Internet companies including CareerBuilder is worth $2.26 billion; and the company’s newspapers are worth $623 million.
Multiple newspaper owners have expressed interest in Tribune’s papers.
- Warren Buffett, who bought dozens of newspapers in 2012, said recently of The (Allentown, Pa.) Morning Call, “We haven’t heard anything from the Tribune Co., but if the phone rings, I’ll answer.”
- Rupert Murdoch has reportedly considered acquiring the Los Angeles Times and the other Tribune papers, as News Corp. separates its publishing from its entertainment division.
- Aaron Kushner, who has been expanding the Orange County Register since purchasing it this year, said last week that he was interested in the L.A. Times and other Tribune papers. “I think it’s a pretty small group that potentially could fit our model,” Kushner told the Associated Press.
Kushner also told the AP, “he expects the Tribune’s new owners would sell the newspapers in a single package.” In that case, buyers like Warren Buffett or civic-minded local investors in L.A., Chicago, Baltimore or other Tribune cities might be unable to purchase the papers individually, unless or until they were broken up by a subsequent owner.
The newspaper sale has been anticipated for months, but Tribune was expected to keep and grow its broadcast business, so the offloading of those properties would be a surprise.
The sale of the broadcast properties could make News Corp. a more likely buyer (it might even be an incentive for them to buy the less lucrative newspapers), as they already own TV stations in some of the same markets, and the FCC is moving toward relaxing cross-ownership rules.
Tribune CEO Eddy Hartenstein will remain in that role for the next few weeks until the new board appoints a new CEO, most likely former broadcast executive Peter Ligouri.