A broad corporate reorganization may be setting the stage for a sale of some media properties by Tribune Co., according to Crain’s Chicago Business, which first reported the news, citing documents filed in a Delaware bankruptcy court as part of Tribune’s ongoing Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings.
The documents outline a proposed reorganization that simplifies corporate ownership of key assets, including creating limited liability companies for Tribune’s main newspaper properties, according to Crain’s.
For example, five businesses in Baltimore are being merged into a single entity centered on The Baltimore Sun. This could be intended to make these properties more attractive to buyers after Tribune exits bankruptcy -- which could happen before the end of the year.
Tribune owns both print and broadcast properties, as well as their associated online assets. Given the beleaguered state of the newspaper business, the company is more likely to choose to divest itself of some of its less-profitable print properties. This could well include big metro dailies, like The Baltimore Sun and the Los Angeles Times; a number of potential buyers have expressed interest in the latter publication, including Los Angeles billionaires Ron Burkle, Eli Broad, and David Geffen, among others.
Conversely, the company may decide to refocus its energies on the core newspaper business and shed some of its broadcast stations, which include local stations in Dallas, Philadelphia, Harrisburg, Sacramento and Portland.
If recent deals by other companies are any guide, Tribune will probably go with the first option and sell off newspaper properties. Last week, Media General, which also owns a portfolio of print and broadcast properties, announced plans to sell 63 newspapers to Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway for $142 million in cash along with loans and credit totaling $445 million.