By Nadia Damouni and Jennifer Saba
Feb 26 Tribune Co has hired investment banks
Evercore Partners and J.P. Morgan to assess interest in
its newspaper unit, which includes The Los Angeles Times and
Chicago Tribune, the company confirmed in a statement on
A sale of its eight major newspapers, which also include The
Baltimore Sun, has been widely expected since Tribune emerged
from a four-year bankruptcy process late last year.
"There is a lot of interest in our newspapers, which we
haven't solicited," Tribune said in a statement. "Hiring outside
financial advisers will help us determine whether that interest
is credible, allow us to consider all of our options, and
fulfill our fiduciary responsibility to our shareholders and
News of a potential sale of Tribune's newspapers follows
last week's announcement that the New York Times Co also
hired Evercore to auction off The Boston Globe and related
Taken together, that means that three of the top 25
newspapers in the United States could be up for sale.
Tribune's new chief executive, Peter Ligouri, and some of
its new directors have broadcasting rather than newspaper
experience, suggesting that the company plans to concentrate on
its 23 TV stations and its national cable network, WGN America.
The hiring of Evercore and J.P. Morgan means the beginning
of the parlor game of guessing potential bidders, especially for
the Los Angeles Times. In the past, the daily has attracted
interest from entertainment executive David Geffen, billionaire
philanthropist Eli Broad and supermarket magnate Ron Burkle.
Other notable names such as Warren Buffett and News Corp's
Rupert Murdoch have surfaced as possible buyers for
some of Tribune's dailies.
Indeed, Buffett went so far as to tell The Morning Call in
Allentown, Pennsylvania - one of Tribune's newspapers - that
"Allentown is our kind of place" after being asked if Buffett's
Berkshire Hathaway was interested in the paper.
News Corp declined to comment. A spokesman for BH
Media Group, a subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway that operates
its newspapers, was not immediately available for comment.
Aaron Kushner, the owner of the Orange County Register near
Los Angeles, said he was "prepared to take a serious look" at
Tribune's newspapers in December.
U-T San Diego owners, Doug Manchester and John Lynch, whose
names had been in the mix, will not make a bid. Lynch said in an
email on Tuesday, the U-T, formerly the Union-Tribune, "will not
participate in any auction," declining to comment further.
The newspaper sector has heated up in recent months with
several properties changing hands or coming up on the block even
as readers prefer to access news digitally and advertisers
increasingly opt for other media.
The Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News were sold for about
$55 million last year to a group led by Democratic Party fund
raiser George Norcross III and former New Jersey Nets basketball
team owner Lewis Katz.
Buffett has been steadily amassing what is shaping up to be
an empire of small to medium-sized newspapers, with the most
recent deal coming on Monday to buy the Tulsa World in Oklahoma.
Tribune's newspapers are profitable and estimated to be
worth $623 million, according to a report by its financial
adviser Lazard. Its TV operations are estimated to account for
$2.85 billion of the company's $7 billion valuation, which also
includes a 30 percent stake in the Food Network and the
company's cash balance.
CNBC first reported Tribune's hiring of the banks.