'Of two minds'?
The Financial Times reported the News Corp. founder has joined the Chandlers in its bid for the Chicago media conglomerate, while the New York Times described him as "of two minds" about doing so.
Both accounts said Mr. Murdoch was primarily interested in Long Island's Newsday, which Mr. Murdoch's New York Post has occasionally warred with over the years as Newsday has occasionally tried to crack the New York market with little success.
The Post has gained circulation but lost money, and could possibly improve its margins by sharing some printing and distributing operations with Newsday. It also could find benefits cross-selling ads between the two papers.
Two tabloids Mr. Murdoch used to own -- the Boston Herald and Chicago Sun-Times -- have teamed with clusters of suburban publications to compete against a larger metro competitor.
Publishing biz only
The Chandler family -- which sold Times Mirror Co. to Tribune in a 2000 deal it now credits with the company's subsequent woes -- is only bidding for Tribune's publishing business, and has proposed to spin off Tribune's broadcast group to its existing shareholders.
The New York Times report said Mr. Murdoch's hesitation was related to a circulation-fraud scandal at Newsday from which the paper is still recovering. The alleged fraud was executed by executives whose tenure at the paper dated back to Times Mirror's ownership of it. And the negative headlines and financial impact were a major factor in Tribune's stock underperforming in the already-moribund newspaper sector for a time.
Other suitors for Tribune include the Los Angeles billionaires Eli Broad and Ron Burkle and the Carlyle Group, which is said to be only interested in Tribune's broadcasting assets.
The Tribune board has given itself an end-of-March deadline to decide whether to accept the offers, or to pursue a different course to boost its flagging stock price, according to reports.