Kudos to James Rainey, the LAT's media reporter—and a kick in the ass for me. Two weeks after I let the Tribune's spokesman blow off my inquiry, and a week after Terry Press at DreamWorks told me David Geffen would have no comment, Rainey breaks into print today with the confirmation that Geffen has been talking openly about buying the Times. Rainey phoned Tribune Company CEO Dennis Fitzsimons, who acknowledged that he met with Geffen this summer. Reports Rainey:
"We had a meeting at his request, with no disclosed reason in advance," FitzSimons confirmed in a telephone interview. "At that point, he indicated his interest in the paper. And I told him it was not for sale."
FitzSimons said he considered the issue a dead one and that any additional advances by Geffen would not change his mind. He declined to provide any other details — including whether Geffen made a specific offer. Geffen declined to comment, said a spokesman at the studio he helped found, DreamWorks SKG.
"People, when they get to that level, they always think they can do it better," said one city power player who spoke on condition of anonymity because he said his conversations with Geffen were supposed to be confidential. "I think I could do a lot better with the L.A. Times too."
Good lesson for next time in reporting persistence and going with what you have (and, perhaps, the value of playing on the home team.) I had confirmed with former Times editor John Carroll that Geffen mentioned his interest, and knew that Geffen spoke about it again in a recent off-the-record session with Times editors. But after Tribune spokesman Gary Weitman, asked about the meeting with FitzSimons, replied only that "the Times is not for sale," I chose to hold the Geffen nugget for an upcoming Los Angeles Magazine article. I shouldn't have.