Let's start with the assumption that none of us outsiders knows what's really going on with the Tribune auction and that all the speculation you've been reading about is just that. NEVERTHELESS... We do seem to be hearing more chatter about Tribune deciding to sell off just a few assets - not the LAT - and otherwise remaining in one piece as a public company. Newspaper analyst John Morton told the LAT: "I think Tribune management and the Chicago-centric directors of the company intend for it to come through this fairly whole." In fact, there seems to be an overall lack of enthusiasm from all sides about cutting a deal. And there's absolutely no indication - at least from the outside - that the Broad/Burkle offer will be any higher than the bids from the private equity guys. And why would it be?
Another interesting riff comes from S&P media analyst James Peters, who told Marketwatch that the recent signing of two players to the Chicago Cubs would not indicate that Tribune has much interest in selling the team. "If you look at all of these signings, as well as indications that they're going to spend more to bolster the pitching staff, you'd be hard pressed to make the argument that they're minimizing their expenses to make themselves more attractive," Peters said. From Marketwatch:
"With the Chandlers being their largest shareholder, I think they're doing the right thing," Peters said. "But I think their conclusion will be that they can't realize the value of the company when it's trading at multiyear lows, when they're in a cyclical and secular slump in the industry that they're trying to fix, but need time to turn around.... Once they have the evidence from their investment bankers that they would be selling low, they can turn around to their shareholders and say, look, let us follow the course that we were on."
Of course, an argument can be made (and has been) that tight-fisted Tribune wouldn't have green-lighted the Cubs signings if management believed the company would be owning the team in the long run. See how this story can make you a little meshuga?