Media & Mergers and Acquisitions 18 Dec 2006 07:31 pm

Chandlers Want Their Newspaper Back

by Sean Hackbarth

Tribune Company logo

The family that used to own the LA Times is reported (by the Times no less) to be interested in buying the company that bought their newspaper. Really it’s not as confusing as that sentence sounded:

The Chandlers, who currently own a 20% stake in the company, have been in discussions with billionaire Ron Burkle’s investment firm, Yucaipa Cos., about making a joint offer for some or all of Tribune’s assets, the Los Angeles Times reported on its Web site, citing two unnamed people said to be familiar with their plans. The L.A. Times is owned by Tribune, along with 10 other newspapers including the Chicago Tribune, 26 television stations, and the Chicago Cubs baseball team.

Tribune executives led by Chief Executive Dennis J. FitzSimons are expected to enter a bid of their own in alliance with a consortium of three private investment firms, one of the group’s advisors reportedly said.

The management consortium is said to include Providence Equity Partners of Rhode Island, Apollo Management of New York and Chicago investment firm Madison Dearborn Partners, according to the L.A. Times.

In July, the Chandlers demanded that Tribune take dramatic steps to lift its stock price, which had lost more than half its value since early 2004. The family said that Tribune should sell its broadcasting division, pursue tax-free spin-offs of its newspaper assets or try to sell the company as a whole.

About the only private equity firm not interested in Tribune is Texas Pacific Group, but they blew their wad last week on Sabre and Qantas.

Also interested in buying Tribune are Tribune executives. But “executives are unlikely to lead any buyout effort but could very well have a future management role in the company.” At least they’d keep their jobs.

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