Who exactly is "a source familiar with Geffen's thinking who spoke on condition of anonymity because negotiations are ongoing"? The Washington Post's Frank Ahrens is the latest reporter to buy into the claim that David Geffen not only wants to purchase the LAT from Sam Zell (or establish some sort of partnership), but is already in negotiations. "Zell in talks with Geffen on deal for L.A. Times" is the headline. It's basically a pickup of the story Nikki Finke had earlier in the week - and it's a great story. But is it true? Certanly not based on what Zell told the Chicago Tribune the other day.
Q: Would you consider a partnership with David Geffen for the LA Times?
Zell: It's a question I couldn't possibly answer. No. 1, I don't know David Geffen well enough. I had dinner with him once but that's not enough to have an opinion other than that he's a delightful character. I don't know how to answer that question. I can tell you I wouldn't consider a deal with Burkle and Broad but that's a different story.
But Finke's sources tell her that "Geffen and Zell came to know each other in Malibu, where both billionaires have their de rigueur beach houses, and consider themselves friends." OK, so somebody isn't being exactly candid about the nature of the friendship or the nature of the "negotiations." So who could it be: the guy who is about to own the crown jewels - and who might not have much interest in giving the biggest one away - or the guy who is desperately trying to worm his way into the jewel box? The "source familiar with Geffen's thinking" may be spinning this story to unlikely heights, but heck, it's working.
*Update: So much for unlikely heights. WSJ is reporting this afternoon that Geffen and Zell will meet tomorrow night about the LAT. The conversations are described as informal, but it'll no doubt rachet up the story.