September 22, 2023

DealBook: Tribune Hires Investment Banks to Weigh a Sale of Its Top Newspapers

The presses at The Los Angeles Times in 2009.Ric Francis/Associated PressThe presses at The Los Angeles Times in 2009.

8:18 p.m. | Updated

The Tribune Company has hired investment banks to weigh a sale of its top newspapers, including The Chicago Tribune and The Los Angeles Times, the media conglomerate said on Tuesday.

The company, which emerged from bankruptcy late last year, has retained JPMorgan Chase and Evercore Partners as advisers, said Gary Weitman, a spokesman for Tribune.

Mr. Weitman said the move was prompted by unsolicited expressions of interest in the newspapers from various suitors.

“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 employees,” he said in a statement.

Tribune’s move came as little surprise. Speculation had been swirling around the media industry for some time that a number of potential suitors had emerged for the company’s holdings. That group may include News Corporation, which is in the process of spinning off its newspaper holdings from its far bigger Fox Entertainment operations. The new company may consider acquisitions as a way to gain more clout and reduce costs.

Another potential buyer is Aaron Kushner, who owns a group of newspapers that includes The Orange County Register in California and has been vocal about his interest in the Tribune properties.

Peter Liguori, Tribune’s recently appointed chief executive, told The Los Angeles Times last month that he had not ruled out a sale of the company’s newspaper brands, but that he was not “going into this job with a fire-sale sign.”

Tribune is expected to hold on to its newspapers, which also include The Baltimore Sun and The Hartford Courant, if the price offered is not high enough.

A sale would help Tribune focus more on its bigger broadcasting operation, which includes WGN America and about two dozen stations across the country. Mr. Liguori himself is a television veteran, having worked in News Corporation’s television division and at Discovery Communications.

Tribune filed for bankruptcy protection in 2008, just one year after it was taken over by the real estate developer Samuel Zell in a deal that relied heavily on borrowed money.

The company emerged from Chapter 11 protection on Dec. 31, under the control of the investment firms Oaktree Capital and Angelo, Gordon Company, as well as JPMorgan.

It left bankruptcy in relatively healthy financial condition, reporting about $9.8 billion in assets and $1.3 billion in liabilities as of Dec. 30.

Evercore was hired this month to advise The New York Times Company as it considers a sale of its New England media assets, principally The Boston Globe.

Shares in Tribune, which trade over the counter, were up 1.3 percent on Tuesday, at $53.50. That values the media conglomerate at about $3 billion.

News of the hiring of the banks was reported earlier by CNBC.

A version of this article appeared in print on 02/27/2013, on page B5 of the NewYork edition with the headline: Tribune Company Hires Investment Banks to Weigh a Sale of Its Top Newspapers.

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