* Tribune looks to sell papers after Ch. 11-sources
* Tribune to focus on its TV station business-sources
* San Diego Union-Tribune owner interested-sources
* Orange County Register owner, News Corp also interested
By Jennifer Saba and Ronald Grover
NEW YORK/LOS ANGELES Dec 11 San Diego
Union-Tribune owner Doug Manchester and Orange County Register
owner Aaron Kushner are interested in acquiring Tribune's stable
of newspapers, according to people familiar with the situation.
The Tribune Co, owner of the Los Angeles Times and the
Chicago Tribune, will be seeking buyers for its newspapers once
it emerges from bankruptcy, expected by Dec. 31, these sources
Oaktree Capital Management, JPMorgan Chase & Co and Angelo,
Gordon & Co, the controlling Tribune owners, made the decision
to sell off its print business to focus instead on Tribune's
television stations in cities like Chicago, New York, and
Seattle, sources said.
Tribune could grab interest for its publishing assets that
include the Baltimore Sun and the Orlando Tribune, from other
bidders such as News Corp's Rupert Murdoch, sources
"If they should become available, we are prepared to take a
serious look at purchasing some or all of them if the terms are
healthy and we believe, market by market, that we can reverse
the downward trajectory of advertising and circulation,"
Kushner, head of Freedom Communications, said in a statement.
Freedom Communication already owns the Orange County
Register and getting hold of the Tribune's Los Angeles Times
would give Kushner a nice one-two punch in the Southern
But Kushner cautioned that talk of the sale is premature.
News Corp and Tribune declined to comment. Manchester did
not immediately respond to comment. Oaktree Capital Management
and Angelo Gordon were not immediately available to comment. JP
Morgan declined to comment.
Manchester bought the San Diego Union-Tribune from Platinum
Equity in 2011 for more than $100 million, according to a New
York Times report about the purchase.
The hotel and convention center developer, who refers to
himself as "Papa" Doug Manchester and a "true industrialist" on
his company Manchester Financial's website, has been a
controversial owner of the Union-Tribune given his outside
business activities in the city.
John Lynch, a former salesman for the Chicago Tribune, was
an investor in the team led by Manchester to acquire the
Union-Tribune. Lynch currently serves as chief executive of the
According to a Nov. 26 article in the American Journalism
Review, Lynch noted that the group acquired the North County
Times and was interested in buying other papers. Lynch,
according to the article, "did not rule out making a run at his
Lynch did not respond to a call seeking comment.
News Corp is undergoing a corporate makeover to split its
publishing assets from its entertainment division in a process
likely to occur by early summer.
In addition to newspapers, Tribune also owns WGN America, a
national news feed of its Chicago station, which it repackages
as a super-station and distributes through cable and satellite
to more than 76 million homes, according to Nielsen Co. data.
Tribune's TV operations are estimated to account for $2.85
billion of the company's $7 billion valuation, while its
publishing assets are estimated to represent $623 million,
according to report by its financial advisor Lazard. The rest of
its value resides in other assets including its stake in the
Food Network and its cash balance.
Despite its low valuation relative to the rest of the
company's assets, Tribune's newspaper unit is profitable.
To guide the company, Tribune's owners are expected to name
industry veteran Peter Liguori, a former Fox and Discovery
Communications executive, as its CEO once it emerges
The owners are also negotiating with Peter Murphy, Walt
Disney Co's former top strategic planner, to become its
chief operating officer, said two people with knowledge of the
talks. Before becoming Disney's top planning executive, Murphy
was chief financial officer of its ABC television unit.
Tribune's move to shed its newspaper assets was expected by
observers, who have noted the twin challenges wracking the
newspaper industry of declining readership and a plunge in
The industry lost almost half of its advertising revenue in
a five-year period and is now down to $24 billion, according to
the industry trade organization the Newspaper Association of
Indeed, the declining fundamentals of newspapers coupled
with the large amount of debt Tribune carried forced it into a
long and complicated four year bankruptcy case.
Sam Zell took control of Tribune in 2007 through a leveraged
buyout that saddled it with $13 billion in debt just as the
newspaper industry hit its downturn.
News of Tribune seeking bankers to sell its newspapers was
first reported by Bloomberg.