Tribune has no plans to sell more papers


NEW YORK - Tribune Co. has no plans to sell its remaining newspapers, having completed the disposal of $500 million worth of non-core assets, the company said Thursday.

"Our newspapers are clear leaders in the major markets they serve and fit our strategic focus on larger publishing and interactive businesses," Tribune publishing chief Scott Smith said in a statement carried by some of the company's papers.

"While the special committee of our board of directors continues to oversee Tribune's exploration of strategic alternatives, we have no current plans to sell additional newspapers," he said.

The Chicago-based publisher and broadcaster is reviewing bids that include buying out the company and spinning off divisions as it tries to satisfy restive investors. It is expected to decide by the end of the month.

Part of Tribune's plan to boost its stock price has been to get rid of $500 million in non-core assets.

Its planned $73 million sale of the Advocate in Stamford, Connecticut, and the Greenwich Time, also in Connecticut, pushed the company over that mark.

Tribune expects the sale, announced on Tuesday, to be complete by the end of the first quarter or beginning of the second quarter. Newspaper publisher Gannett Co. Inc. is the buyer.

News of the sale prompted several Tribune papers to ask whether they would be sold as well. Potential buyers have emerged for several, including local investor groups for the Baltimore Sun and the Hartford Courant.

News Corp. Chairman and Chief Executive Rupert Murdoch has indicated interest in Newsday on New York's Long Island. Entertainment mogul David Geffen is reported to have offered to buy the Los Angeles Times, which analysts have said could be worth $2 billion.

Tribune spokesman Gary Weitman said company statements were sent to newspapers that asked for them.

Allentown, Pennsylvania's Morning Call on Wednesday published this statement from Smith: "The Morning Call is a substantially larger paper than the papers we are selling in southern Connecticut. Its future outlook is good and there are no current plans to sell The Morning Call."

The Daily Press in Hampton Roads, Virginia, published a similar statement.

The statement applies to every remaining Tribune daily, Weitman said.

Ted Venetoulis, part of a Baltimore-based group interested in buying the Sun, told that paper that he was not discouraged.

"Once they decide what to do with the parent company, it is our hope that their current plans would change," he said. "It won't necessarily be Tribune making the decision."

Venetoulis and Cheryl Chase, part of a group interested in the Hartford Courant, were not immediately available for comment.

Tribune shares were down 3 cents at $30.04 near midday on the New York Stock Exchange.

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