Zuckerman bids on Newsday, Cablevision out-sources

NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York Daily News owner Mortimer Zuckerman submitted a bid to buy Newsday from Tribune Co, while his archrival Rupert Murdoch is also in talks about the paper, sources familiar with the situation said on Wednesday.

Separately, cable television operator Cablevision Systems Corp is not interested in buying Long Island-based Newsday, contrary to press reports, another person familiar with the matter told Reuters.

Real estate tycoon Sam Zell took Tribune Co private last year in an $8.2 billion leveraged buyout that restructured the publisher as an employee-owned company, saddling it with more than $10 billion in debt. Industry experts have said the only way for Tribune to avoid default is to unload assets to pay down its debt.

Analysts think Newsday could fetch between $350 million and $600 million. Details of the Zuckerman bid were not immediately available and a Tribune spokesman declined comment.

Murdoch and Zuckerman have fought for years over dominance of the New York tabloid market. Murdoch’s New York Post and Zuckerman’s New York Daily News try to outdo each other with wordplay-laden headlines and sensational local, business and celebrity news.

Long Island’s wealthy suburbs, Newsday’s market, could be one of the biggest prizes to be gained in their rivalry.

Murdoch publicly said last week that Newsday would be a good fit with his News Corp, but a deal could face hurdles with regulators.

The U.S. government restricts the number of papers that media companies own in certain markets where they also own television stations. In the New York City area, Murdoch also owns The Wall Street Journal and Fox affiliate WNYW-TV, in addition to the New York Post.

It is unclear whether Newsday’s Long Island market would count as part of the New York market.

A source close to News Corp said the company continues to have talks with Tribune on buying Newsday or forming a joint venture that would allow Murdoch to combine the back-office operations of Newsday and the New York Post.

Several media outlets have said James Dolan, whose family controls Cablevision, is interested in acquiring Newsday but that is not true, a person familiar with the matter said.

Newspapers have been struggling with declining ad revenue and waning readership as more advertisers and readers move to digital media and get their news and place their ads online.

Some of Tribune’s most well known and largest newspapers, including the Chicago Tribune, the Los Angeles Times and the Orlando Sentinel, are hurting because of their exposure to the struggling real estate markets in California and Florida.

Additional reporting by Kenneth Li; editing by Carol Bishopric, Gary Hill