Broad's interest in LA Times still alive

NEW YORK, March 10 Tue Mar 10, 2009 2:06am EDT

NEW YORK, March 10 (Reuters) - Eli Broad, a wealthy philanthropist who once looked at buying the Los Angeles Times, is still interested in a foray into the newspaper business, he told a gathering in New York on Monday night.

"We can't afford to lose good newspaper journalism, investigative reporting," the 75-year old retired business maven said during a lecture on business in philanthropy at the 92nd Street Y in Manhattan.

The Times, which is owned by the Tribune Co, has like most U.S. newspapers been struggling with a steep drop in advertising revenue brought on by U.S. economic woes and a migration of readers to the Internet.

Real estate magnate Sam Zell took Tribune private in an $8.2 billion deal in 2007 that loaded up the company with billions in debt. The company filed for bankruptcy protection last year.

The L.A. Times is expected to eventually be put up for sale again.

Broad, jokingly, said: "I've regained my sanity since then," referring to his earlier interest. But turning more serious, he added: "I would like to see our foundation and others join together to own the LA Times."

Even then, budget constraints would likely be at play. "I am not sure it can be a national paper, or have the same aspirations it once had," said Broad. He added that one way to broaden reach could be tie-up with The Washington Post Co WPO.N.

Broad, who made his fortune by founding homebuilder KB Home (KBH.N) then building SunAmerica, a provider of retirement products, into a Fortune 500 company that he sold to AIG in 1999 for $18 billion, conceded newspapers, as a business proposition, is weak.

"No one has figured out a good business model as of yet," he said.

Cutting out profit expectations could be one answer, he added: "Newspapers ought to be owned by foundations, not look for great financial returns."

Broad pointed to UK newspaper the Guardian as one example. That paper is owned by the Scott Trust Limited, which was created in 1936 to protect the legacy of longstanding editor and former owner of the Guardian, C.P. Scott.

"If several foundations are involved there is likely to be journalistic freedom," said Broad. (Editing by Lincoln Feast)

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