Tribune under pressure amid sale reports

/ Source: The Associated Press

Tribune Co. shares fell Thursday after published reports said bids for the entire media company were far lower than expected and it is telling prospective bidders that individual pieces are now available for sale.

Tribune Co. representatives made a series of calls Wednesday signaling their new intention to those who have expressed interest in the company’s individual holdings, according to unnamed sources cited Thursday in the Chicago Tribune, the Los Angeles Times, The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times.

Tribune shares fell 64 cents to $31.98 in morning trading on the New York Stock Exchange.

The company put itself on the auction block in late September, and statements by Chief Executive Dennis FitzSimons at the time made clear that officials would prefer to sell the entire company but would keep their options open.

“In order to maximize shareholder value, our initial focus is determining the best strategic alternatives for the company and its publishing and broadcast groups as a whole, before evaluating strategic alternatives for individual business units,” FitzSimons said in a statement in September.

Quoting unnamed people involved in the company’s sale, media outlets said the bids offered up so far have been lackluster. The Tribune Co. owns the Chicago Tribune, the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Cubs, WGN-TV and several other media outlets.

Three investor groups have submitted preliminary, non-binding bids for Tribune Co., the Tribune reported, citing unnamed sources.

One group consists of Fort Worth-based Texas Pacific Group and Boston-based Thomas H. Lee Partners. The other bids came from Boston-based Bain Capital and an alliance made up of Chicago’s Madison Dearborn Partners, New York-based Apollo Management and Rhode Island-based Providence Equity Partners.

However, investors have shown the strongest interest in the company’s individual units, including the Los Angeles Times, Newsday, The (Baltimore) Sun and The Hartford Courant, the report said.

Billionaire Ron Burkle, business leader Eli Broad and Hollywood mogul David Geffen have voiced interest in the Los Angeles Times, but no formal offer is said to have been made.