Rupert Murdoch indulged in some good old-fashioned rumor-mongering over the weekend, triggering an online frenzy with his tweet on Friday that Tribune Publishing will be sold in the near future. However, Tribune moved to dispel the rumor Monday, with a statement that it has no offers pending and is not for sale.
Murdoch’s original tweet read, “Strong word Tribune newspaper group to be bought by big Wall St firm, LA Times to go to philanthropist Eli Broad and local group.”
This seemed to fit with the ongoing media narrative about Broad’s interest in the LAT, which led to the firing of former publisher Austin Beutner for supporting Broad’s bid.
Some Twitter users cattily suggested that Murdoch was spreading rumors as sour grapes for a failed bid of his own, but the media mogul brushed off this notion. When one follower tweeted, “pissed your bid lost, Rupert?” he immediately replied: “No bid. No interest.”
Tribune sent an internal memo to employees, and an accompanying statement to the Securities and Exchange Commission, denying the rumors that the company was for sale or the LAT about to be spun off.
The statement read, in part: “Over the Thanksgiving weekend, a rumor was reported in social media and the press regarding a potential purchase of Tribune Publishing Company. While our policy is not to comment on rumors, given the source of this speculation and the fact that it has received considerable public attention, the company believes a statement to employees is warranted. As our board of directors noted earlier this fall, and as we articulated in our November earnings call, Tribune Publishing remains committed to its strategy and transformation plan and is not engaged in discussions or a process to sell the company.”
Although Tribune has denied rumors of a sale, media analyst Ken Doctor notes there have been some expressions of interest from potential buyers. According to Doctor, last month Apollo Global Management approached Tribune Publishing but received no response.