(Reuters) - Charles and David Koch, two of the world’s richest men, are interested in Tribune’s newspaper assets, which include the Los Angeles Times and the Chicago Tribune, according to sources familiar with situation.
Earlier on Tuesday, L.A. Weekly reported that the Koch brothers were rumored to be interested in either all of the Tribune company, which includes 23 TV stations and national cable network WGN American, or the Tribune newspapers. The report also cited “another rumor” from a Los Angeles Times editorial board member that the Koch brothers are helping U-T San Diego newspaper owner Doug Manchester finance a bid.
According to one of the Reuters sources, the Koch brothers are not interested in Tribune’s other assets - which include the broadcast TV stations. Tribune, based in Chicago, owns eight major dailies, including The Baltimore Sun and Hartford Courant.
Manchester said in statement: “We are looking forward to opportunities to employ our cross-media strategy in other markets. We have no partnership with Koch Industries or with the Koch brothers, and we don’t anticipate any such arrangement. If we were to become involved in the sale of the Tribune Company or any other media assets, we would be glad to comment at the appropriate time.”
Melissa Cohlmia, a spokeswoman for Koch Companies Public Sector, said in a statement: ”As an entrepreneurial company with 60,000 employees around the world, we are constantly exploring profitable opportunities in many industries and sectors.
“So, it is natural that our name would come up in connection with this rumor. We respect the independence of the journalistic institutions referenced in today’s news stories, but it is our long-standing policy not to comment on deals or rumors of deals we may or may not be exploring.”
Tribune spokesman Gary Weitman said the company does not comment on speculation.
The Koch Brothers - worth $34 billion, making them the world’s sixth-richest men, according to Forbes magazine - would have more than enough room to make a bid for all of Tribune’s newspapers.
Tribune’s newspapers are profitable and estimated to be worth $623 million, according to a report by Lazard, its financial adviser.
The brothers are the owners of Koch Industries, a sprawling conglomerate whose holdings include crude oil and natural gas pipelines, paper products like Dixie Cups and Angel Soft toilet tissue, and cattle ranches.
They are known for their conservative views and on the Koch Industries website explain that economic freedom means that “government is kept small and limited to those activities that contribute to societal well-being, rather than undermine it.”
Other notable names such as Warren Buffett and News Corp’s Rupert Murdoch have surfaced as possible buyers for some of Tribune’s dailies. 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.
The newspaper industry is once again becoming a hive of activity as several big city papers hit the auction block while other smaller newspapers have been snapped up by the likes of Buffett.
Tribune is the latest example of a company exploring a sale of its newspapers. The New York Times announced in February it was putting The Boston Globe and other properties in New England up for sale.
Reporting By Jennifer Saba and Nadia Damouni in New York; Editing by Chris Gallagher