Murdoch in 'early talks' about buying LA Times

latimes-from-broadway.jpgThe Times itself is reporting that executives with Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. "have had preliminary talks" with the debt holders that will end up owning the Los Angeles Times when Tribune Company exits bankruptcy. That could happen by the end of the year, and other potential buyers of the Times are starting to kick the tires. The LAT also says that former Villaraigosa adviser Austin Beutner "has begun reaching out to civic-minded investors who would be willing to put up money to acquire" the Times, and the Orange County Register's new owner, Aaron Kushner, said Friday that he and his investors are interested. "There would be real challenges given what The Times has been going through," Kushner told the paper, " but we think there are enough synergies, on the advertising and content side, to make it a strategic fit."

Doug Manchester, the new owner who has taken the former San Diego Union-Tribune in a radically bad direction, also said recently that he will look at the Times as a potential acquisition. A Murdoch deal, though, would have special complications and broad ramifications. Murdoch's interest seems to be in acquiring both the Times and the Chicago Tribune, which could be sold off separately or together once the creditors take control of Tribune Company at the end of bankruptcy.

From the LAT story:

Murdoch heads the world's largest news company, which includes the Wall Street Journal and the Times of London.

Acquiring the Los Angeles Times and the Chicago Tribune would give him strong footholds in the nation's three largest media markets: New York, Los Angeles and Chicago.

Murdoch's lieutenants say he has long wanted to buy The Times. On trips to Los Angeles, he is known to mark up the newspaper with a Sharpie pen to illustrate how he would design pages.

News Corp. and Tribune Co. have existing business ties. Tribune owns 23 television stations, including nine that carry the programming of News Corp.'s two broadcast networks. Tribune stations in San Diego, Sacramento and five other markets are Fox network affiliates.

The Los Angeles Times also prints more than 100,000 copies of the Wall Street Journal that are distributed in Southern California, and the Tribune prints the Journal in Chicago....News Corp. owns two Fox [TV] stations in L.A. and two in Chicago.

So there would be regulatory hurdles to overcome. Reuters adds that "News Corp executives -- including Murdoch's son James -- flew into Los Angeles twice this month to take a preliminary look at the storied daily's books."

Photo of LA Times building: LA Observed

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