Tribune Publishing Faces DOJ Lawsuit After Successful Bid For 'O.C. Register'

Despite the U.S. Department of Justice’s warnings of a suit, Tribune Publishing announced Thursday that it won the auction to acquire the assets of bankrupt Freedom Communications, which includes the Orange County Register and Riverside Press-Enterprise.

Shortly after the announcement, the DOJ filed a suit in an attempt to prevent the sale to Tribune from proceeding, citing concerns regarding the company’s monopoly in the region.

"Tribune's dominant position in both Orange County and Riverside County would allow it to, among other harmful effects, increase subscription prices and advertising rates to businesses targeting readers in those areas," the Justice Department's lawsuit stated.

According to an ABC News report, Tribune spokeswoman Dana Meyer criticized the actions taken by the Justice Department's Antitrust Division.



"The Division is living in a time capsule, with a framework that predates the arrival of iPhones, Google, Facebook and modern media outlets that are killing the traditional newspaper industry. It wasn't competition from the L.A. Times that forced the Register into bankruptcy. It was the Internet and related technology," Meyer said in a statement given to the Times.

Tribune agreed to pay $56 million in cash to own Freedom's assets.

Despite the DOJ’s threats from earlier this week, it’s clear why Tribune was hungry for Freedom’s assets. Tribune wants to buy the Register and Press-Enterprise to expand its business base in the Southern California region, while cutting costs among its newspapers by consolidating printing and distribution operations.

Should their bid be approved in a Bankruptcy Court hearing on March 21, Tribune will own papers all the way from the San Diego Union Tribune to the Orange County Register and the L.A. Times. According to the DOJ’s estimate, that means Tribune would control 98% of daily English-language newspaper sales in Orange County and 81% in Riverside County.

“The successful bid for the business of Freedom Communications will allow the Orange County Register and the Press-Enterprise to continue providing a distinct local voice in their communities and deliver premium news and information to consumers across Southern California,” stated Justin Dearborn, CEO of Tribune Publishing.
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