Out of the blue (at least to us outsiders), News Corp. has pulled its $580 million bid for the Tribune-owned Long Island newspaper, just days after CEO Rupert Murdoch told analysts that a deal was imminent. It seems that he was unwilling to match the $650-million offer by Cablevision, which is controlled by the Dolan family and has a bunch of Long Island ties. Also making a $580-million offer - and considering upping that - is NY Daily News owner Mort Zuckerman. What's interesting about all this is how confident Murdoch was sounding about doing the deal with Tribune CEO Sam Zell. From the conference call:
I donít think Cablevision will prevail. Just be patient for a couple of days, will you? We are certainly not in the business of getting into an auction here.
Weíre hoping to wrap it up within the next week, and I donít mean the end of next week. I mean within the next seven days, but it takes two to agree but we are at a pretty advanced stage. Iíll just leave it at that at the moment.
I trust Mr. Zell absolutely. Heís famous as being a man of his word and we think everything is in hand.
Two ego-infused billionaires negotiating a big-time deal? Now that would be quite a show (whereís Anthony Pellicano when you need him?). Anyway, thereís no telling what went wrong, but it is worth noting that Murdoch was quoted at a Time magazine banquet as saying that the sale could take longer to work out than what he indicated during the conference call. His plan had been to combine the Newsday and NY Post printing operations, but keep the newsrooms separate. As for Zell, there was some silly speculation that he would want to align himself with Murdoch, even if it meant walking away from an extra $70 million. Yeah, right. Here's the Reuters story.
*As the NYT points out, Cablevisionís offer was not truly worth $70 million more than the others because Cablevision was also bidding for the real estate, while Murdoch and Zuckerman had agreed to let Tribune continue to own it. Even with that difference, Cablevisionís offer was still the highest by perhaps $40 million.