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Billionaires battle for media firm Tribune

/ Source: The Associated Press

Billionaires Eli Broad and Ronald Burkle have re-emerged as suitors for Tribune Co., with the Chicago-based media conglomerate responding to their requests for financial information that was already given to real estate magnate and potential buyer Sam Zell, The New York Times reported Thursday.

According to the Times, Burkle and Broad said they did not receive financial information that was given to Zell, who has offered $33 per share for Tribune _ publisher of the Chicago Tribune and Los Angeles Times and owner of the Chicago Cubs baseball team, among other properties.

Tribune, the nation's second-largest U.S. newspaper publisher by circulation, was expected to announce this week plans to sell itself to Zell, whose plan for the company keeps Tribune in one piece.

Facing a sagging stock price and pressure from shareholders, Tribune appointed a special board committee in September to review options for its business, including a possible sale, break-up or going-private transaction.

In addition to Burkle and Broad's proposal for a public leveraged buyout, another option Tribune considered was a Chandler family-led recapitalization with a broadcast unit spinoff. The Chandlers are Tribune's largest shareholders. Among other options was a sale of Tribune's broadcast division to Carlyle Group, a private equity firm based in Washington, D.C.

Goldman Sachs analyst Peter P. Appert said Zell's proposal has emerged as the most likely outcome of all offers Tribune has considered, but noted that time is running out.

"With the March 31 deadline to announce the outcome of the strategic review fast approaching and deal complexity mounting, there is a possibility the deadline could be extended again," Appert wrote in a note to clients.