The decision by the former LAT editor to return to the NYT, announced this morning, will lead inquiring minds to conclude that the Broad/Burkle offer for Tribune Co. is on its last legs. Baquet, after all, would likely be the billionaires' choice to take over the LAT if their offer for Tribune is accepted. But in a NYT piece this morning, Baquet said his decision to leave L.A. should not be seen as a signal that he has inside information on the fate of Tribune or the LAT. “This is a personal decision for me,” he told the NYT. “This has been a long time for me to be outside a newsroom, and it’s starting to make me nuts. I wish The L.A. Times the best. I love it. I helped build it.” He added: “This is not a signal to run for the doors.” From the NYT:
Mr. Baquet, 50, said in an interview that he had met with Eli Broad and Ronald Burkle, two Los Angeles billionaires who have put in a bid for the Tribune Company. He said the conversations were casual and that he kept his personal distance, thinking that he might someday be in the position of directing news coverage of them if they won the paper. He also said that he never met with David Geffen, another Los Angeles mogul, who has made an offer for The Los Angeles Times. The time frame for new ownership began to stretch out, and Mr. Baquet said he began itching to get back into a newsroom, having been out of a job for almost three months.
Nikki Finke, meanwhile, is saying that Tribune Co. has quietly rejected the Broad/Burkle offer. From what I'm hearing, this is too strong a characterization, but not by much. Tribune is looking for a better deal from the two billionaires, but it's hard to believe that the company's directors really want to cut a deal with these guys. And it's also hard to believe that Broad and Burkle are willing to offer a whole lot more. At this point, the focus is probably on some sort of company-led restructuring.