Equity firms are eyeing Tribune

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Tribune Co. has received preliminary buyout offers from a number of top private equity firms, according to media reports during the weekend.

The embattled 145-year-old newspaper and broadcasting giant received indications of interest from a number of combinations of private equity players, the New York Times reported Saturday. Tribune began the process of putting itself up for auction this year after being rocked by internal shareholder battles and the broader market woes afflicting its core newspaper and broadcasting businesses. The company's 11 newspapers, including the Los Angeles Times and Newsday, and 25 TV stations, including WPIX New York and KTLA Los Angeles, are valued at about $8.2 billion, according to the New York Times.

One group that expressed interest in digging deeper into Tribune's books is one that that included Providence Equity Partners, Madison Dearborn Partners and Apollo Management, the New York Times reported. Another group included Thomas H. Lee Partners and Texas Pacific Group; Bain Capital and Carlyle Group also were said to have joined forces in kicking Tribune's tires, the New York Times reported. (VNU Group, parent company of The Hollywood Reporter, is owned by a consortium that includes Thomas H. Lee Partners and Carlyle Group.)

Tribune last month hired Merrill Lynch and Citigroup as financial advisers in a review process to determine "strategic alternatives" for the company's future. Tribune's management, headed by CEO Dennis FitzSimons, became engulfed in a public battle with Chandler Trusts, the company's largest shareholder, which in June called for the company to be sold or broken up.

A Tribune spokesman declined comment Sunday.
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