Mark Walter, controlling owner of the Dodgers as chief executive of Guggenheim Partners, told the LAT's Bill Shaikin last night that he has been exploring the prospects of buying the Los Angeles Times. "The Los Angeles Times says something," Walter said before last night's game. "It means something. It's a brand. I think people have undervalued that. If the price were right, I would buy it." Guggenheim is based in Chicago and Walter said he also is interested in the Chicago Tribune. They would be good investments, he said.
Walter did not elaborate on what action, if any, he has taken toward making a deal. He contributed $100 million to the $2.15-billion purchase of the Dodgers last year, with the majority of the money coming from Guggenheim insurance funds.
It is unclear whether anyone besides Walter would join a newspaper investment group and how any such group might fit into the Guggenheim corporate structure. It also is unclear whether Walter would have interest in newspapers beyond the ones in Los Angeles and Chicago. Tribune Co. owns eight newspapers, including the Baltimore Sun, Orlando Sentinel and South Florida Sun-Sentinel....
Guggenheim last year launched a subsidiary called American Media Productions, the entity with which Time Warner Cable agreed to an $8.5-billion contract to televise Dodgers games, starting next year. In recent years, Guggenheim has broadened its investment horizons into the media world and has acquired Billboard magazine, the Hollywood Reporter and Dick Clark Productions.
John Henry, the owner of the Boston Red Sox, this month acquired the Boston Globe. But joint ownership of a team and a media outlet can be messy. The Tribune Company owned the Chicago Cubs for many years, and of course Fox owned the Dodgers for a few turbulent years. Walter's ownership group at the Dodgers includes some local figures, including Magic Johnson and Peter Guber.
On the Times sales front, there is little happening publicly. This past week the Koch brothers let it be known they are no longer investigating the purchase of the Times or other Tribune newspapers. There may still be some others kicking the tires, including the Austin Beutner-Eli Broad group and Rupert Murdoch. In July, Tribune said it would spin off the Times and other papers into a separate company that some analysts see as having trouble making money on its own.
Walter, left, with Magic Johnson and Peter Guber. Crop from Gary Leonard photo