According to a report in today's New York Times, the Chandlers are exploring assembling a consortium of private-equity firms to buy the Chicago media conglomerate, which owns newspapers including the Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune, and TV stations in large markets such as New York, Chicago and Los Angeles.
Tepid outside interest
The family -- which sold Times Mirror Co. to Tribune in 2000 -- in June called that merger "disastrous," although at the time indicated it was not interested in buying the company. Tribune officially went up for sale in September, and the company has said it expects that process to last into the first quarter of 2007.
But the Times report said tepid interest in Tribune may have inspired the Chandlers to consider making their own bid.
The Chandlers are already Tribune's largest shareholder with about 20% of its shares outstanding, and could work out a deal where they wind up with 51% of the stock and private-equity firms get the rest, the paper reported. Although the family's preference is for an outside bidder to buy the company for a premium over its current share price of about $32.50.
The report noted that the Chandlers' interest could wind up being a ploy to create the impression of bidding war and raise the eventual sale price.
While most newspaper publishers' stocks have been depressed in recent years, Tribune's performance has been hurt additionally by problems it inherited from the deal it cut with the Chandlers to acquire Times Mirror, including circulation fraud at Newsday and its Spanish-language sister paper, severe financial-performance declines at the Los Angeles Times and a $1 billion tax hit tied to a late 1990s divestiture by Times Mirror.
A Chandler family spokeswoman didn't immediately return a phone call, and the family declined to comment for the Times' article.