Monday, February 19, 2018
Business

Buyers ready as Tribune Co. emerges from bankruptcy court

Analysts and prospective buyers are preparing for horse trading to begin over the Tribune Co.'s newspapers now that the company, whose holdings include the Los Angeles Times and the Chicago Tribune along with other media assets, has emerged from bankruptcy protection.

Tribune, which completed bankruptcy paperwork Monday, has not announced the sale of assets, but it is likely to do so in the next several months so it can streamline its business, said Reed Phillips, managing partner of DeSilva & Phillips, a media banking firm. Less clear, however, is whether the company will sell them all at once or by region, like selling the Chicago Tribune with Chicago magazine.

"The company is too large and complex right now, coming out of bankruptcy," Phillips said. "What's needed is a more focused strategy."

Aaron Kushner, chief executive of Freedom Communications and publisher of the Orange County Register in California, confirmed Monday that he was eager to buy Tribune Co. newspapers. He would not say whether he has had any specific conversations with Tribune Co. executives.

He said that from what he had gleaned from bankruptcy court filings and public pension documents, it seemed likely that Tribune would sell its newspapers as a group. That is because the company has such enormous and complex pension obligations and corporate overhead that it would be difficult to untangle them and sell properties individually.

The announcement Monday ended a four-year process for the company. Its assets were tied up in court while the media industry continued its digital transformation.

"Tribune is far stronger than it was when we began the Chapter 11 process four years ago and, given the budget planning we've done, the company is well-positioned for success in 2013," Eddy Hartenstein, Tribune's chief executive, wrote in a note to employees Sunday night.

The company also announced a seven-member board. The directors include Hartenstein and Peter Liguori, a former chief operating officer of Discovery Communications, who is expected to be named chief executive.

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