Tribune execs, Chandler family may bid

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The family that formerly owned the Los Angeles Times and a group of Tribune Co. executives led by CEO Dennis FitzSimons may make separate bids for the media company, it was reported Monday.

Members of the Chandler family, which sold Times Mirror to Tribune in 2000 for $6.5 billion, have talked with billionaire Ron Burkle's investment firm about making a joint offer for some or all of Tribune's assets, the Los Angeles Times reported, citing two people who were familiar with the plans.

Meanwhile, some Tribune managers, including FitzSimons, were expected to enter a bid with the help of three private investment firms, according to the Times, which is the Tribune's largest newspaper.

A Chandler family spokeswoman declined comment on the report Monday.

William Osborn, the lead independent director of Tribune's board of directors who chairs a committee reviewing options for the company, said it is "committed to an open process that maximizes shareholder value."

"From the beginning, the special committee and management agreed that management would not participate as a principal in any of the strategic alternatives without the committee's authorization," Osborn said in a statement. "Management has remained independent and has not aligned itself with any participant in the process."

The Chicago-based company announced in September it was willing to sell all or part of its assets following pressure from large shareholders including the Chandler family who were disappointed with Tribune's lagging stock price and slumping fortunes.

Tribune owns 11 papers, including its flagship Chicago Tribune, as well as 24 television stations and the Chicago Cubs baseball team.

Last month, Burkle and philanthropist Eli Broad teamed to make a bid for the entire Tribune Co. Music mogul David Geffen reportedly followed with a $2 billion cash bid for the Los Angeles Times.

Tribune has said it expects to decide whether to sell the company whole or piecemeal by early next year. It remains unclear how the Chandlers and Burkle's company would proceed and whether Broad would be included in a new partnership.

Analyst Alan Mutter said interest by the Chandler and Tribune management shouldn't come as a surprise because there hasn't been a flood of interested buyers.

"In the absence of a successful auction, management could move forward with a bid to take the company private," Mutter told the newspaper. "And in light of that, it appears that the Chandlers and their financial partners are moving to create an opposing offer."

Analysts said selling the company piecemeal has serious tax consequences for Tribune because its newspapers have a low tax basis and individual sales would result in a large tax bill.
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