Chicago's Zell seen as top L.A. Times bidder

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A Chicago billionaire's bid for Los Angeles Times parent Tribune might be getting more traction than the offer from two local wannabe Times owners.

Real estate tycoon Sam Zell's interest in Tribune surfaced this year, but there was no immediate evidence Tribune execs would find his bid any more interesting -- or lucrative -- than previous offers for the Chicago media group. Those included a joint bid from Los Angeles billionaires Ron Burkle and Eli Broad and a separate inquiry from Hollywood's David Geffen.

More recently, speculation has revolved around a potential Tribune restructuring, perhaps involving a move to take the company private.

On Wednesday, the Times quoted a Tribune insider as suggesting a Zell bid had recently gained serious traction with the Tribune board. That translated into brief market enthusiasm for Tribune shares amid speculation that a deal could jell within days, but by the end of the trading session shares fell 14 cents to $30.07.

A Zell spokeswoman declined comment, but it is believed his plan also would take Tribune private.

On Tuesday, Tribune said it was selling two Connecticut newspapers to Gannett for $73 million.

In addition to Tribune's newspaper group, it also owns 26 TV stations and MLB's Chicago Cubs. Those holdings have figured in speculation over more limited asset sales.
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