L.A. billionaires bid for Tribune


Los Angeles billionaires Eli Broad and Ron Burkle have submitted a joint bid to buy the Los Angeles Times -- plus its parent company Tribune, which owns a chain of other newspapers, a TV station group and the Chicago Cubs.

A source close to the bidders confirmed the offer Wednesday but declined to reveal terms.

News of the bid circulated one day after an announcement that Times editor Dean Baquet was being forced out in a dispute with management involving a planned new round of staff cuts. The latest reports estimate that 50-75 jobs from among a current 940 Times positions likely will be eliminated sometime after Jan. 1.

The newspaper already has chopped hundreds of positions, and Baquet and recently fired publisher Jeffrey Johnson had told Tribune executives that all the slashing was starting to cut too close to the editorial bone of the paper.

Also in recent weeks, the paper has reviewed offers of interest for the Times from the investment community, though initial bids were reportedly too low for the Chicago-based media group to consider. Locally based interest has included a handful of wealthy businessmen including Hollywood's David Geffen.

The latest offer comes from "affiliates of the Broad Investment Co. and (Burkle's) Yucaipa Cos." and is for the entire Tribune company, according to the source.

Newspaper groups have been depressed stocks of late, and market pressures already have prompted the breakup of onetime sector leader Knight-Ridder. It wasn't immediately clear if the Broad-Burkle offer hinged on a strategy of taking the company private or perhaps even breaking up its assets for sale to other parties.

But the simple prospect of a sale of some or all of its assets has buoyed troubled Tribune shares a bit in recent months. On Tuesday, shares rose 86 cents, or 2.7%, to $32.48.