Tribune Publishing Shares Rise on Acquisition Rumor Spread by Rupert Murdoch

Los Angeles Times Building - H 2013
Getty Images

Los Angeles Times Building - H 2013

The company is in the midst of a turnaround plan that includes layoffs.

Shares of Tribune Publishing surged 10 percent on Monday after media mogul Rupert Murdoch tweeted that the newspaper group would be sold to an investment firm while billionaire philanthropist Eli Broad and some partners would take ownership of the Los Angeles Times.

Tribune Publishing didn't respond to a request for comment, but it did issue an internal memo saying that the company "is not engaged in discussions or a process to sell the company." It also filed the statement with the SEC.

Nevertheless, The New York Times reported that Broad has retained investment bank Evercore to explore purchasing the L.A. Times and to help identify a partner who would take the other publications, which include the Chicago Tribune and Baltimore Sun.

Politico Media's Ken Doctor reported that Apollo Global Management could purchase Tribune Publishing and then sell both the L.A. Times and San Diego Union-Tribune to Broad, who has been known to be interested in those two newspaper for several months.

Tribune Publishing is in the midst of a turnaround plan that includes layoffs — more than 80 of the 500 newsroom staffers of the L.A. Times have left already — and some major shareholders are reportedly looking for ways to cash out of their investment.

Even after Monday's hefty gain to $10.18, shares of Tribune Publishing are off 58 percent in the 16 months since the company was spun from Tribune Media. The company's enterprise value is $593 million, but published reports indicate a sale price could be as high as $750 million.

"Strong word Tribune newspaper group to be bought by big Wall Street firm, LA Times to go to philanthropist Eli Broad and local group," read the entire Thanksgiving Day tweet from Murdoch, who controls both 21st Century Fox and News Corp, the latter of which can be considered a competitor to Tribune Publishing.

Tribune Publishing's entire memo, as filed to the SEC, reads:

"Over the Thanksgiving Weekend a rumor was reported in social media and press regarding a potential purchase of Tribune Publishing Co. While our policy is not to comment on rumors, given the source of this speculation and the fact that it has received considerable public attention, the company believes a statement to employees is warranted.

"As our board of directors noted earlier this fall and as we articulated in our November earnings call, Tribune Publishing remains committed to its strategy and transformation plan and is not engaged in discussions or a process to sell the company. As we finish the important fourth quarter, we appreciate the continued hard work and commitment of our employees."