The Los Angeles Times is up for sale again, and once again L.A. investment mogul Eli Broad is interested. The billionaire philanthropist has partnered with Austin Beutner, who
served as L.A. deputy mayor from 2009-2011, to bid for the newspaper -- still one the nation’s largest metropolitan dailies, despite declining circulation in recent years.
Broad’s renewed bid for the LAT was first reported by The Hollywood Reporter, citing unnamed sources, who added that Broad and Beutner would consider buying Tribune Co. in its entirety, although their main interest is in the LAT. The partners are said to be considering converting the LAT to a nonprofit enterprise.
Broad previously tendered an offer for the LAT (and the rest of the Tribune Co.) in 2007, in partnership with fellow billionaire philanthropist Ron Burkle. Tribune Co. was then under pressure from the Chandler family -- which owned the LAT until 2000, and later held a 20% stake in Tribune Co. -- to boost stock prices and buy out their shares by either taking the company private or selling off is properties piece by piece.
After rejecting Broad’s offer, Tribune Co. went private as an employee-owned company in a disastrous buyout engineered by Chicago real-estate baron Sam Zell. Saddled with over $8 billion in debt, Tribune was forced to enter bankruptcy protection in December 2008, opening a tortuous, multiyear court battle that only wrapped up earlier this year.
Broad’s latest offer doesn’t come as a surprise, as he announced his plans to bid for the paper again in interviews and his book, “The Art of Being Unreasonable,” published in April 2012. In the book, Broad predicted that the LAT would come up for sale again after Tribune exited bankruptcy protection, adding that the scenario would be even more advantageous than 2007. "The price should be better and the advantages of local ownership clear to all.”
For his part, Beutner, a founding partner of Evercore Partners who famously worked for the city for $1 a day while deputy mayor, was known to be considering running for mayor but bowed out in May 2012, citing the need to take care of his family.
Other offers for Tribune Co. papers have supposedly been floated by the Koch brothers, well-known supporters of conservative causes; Berkshire Hathaway chairman Warren Buffett; and Wrapports Media, which owns the Chicago Sun-Times. Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. has denied reports that it is interested in the newspaper.