Another hint that Murdoch might be interested in LAT

If you're a reporter for the WSJ and you're writing a story about whether your boss (Rupert Murdoch) might want to buy another newspaper, it's a pretty good bet that the piece is going to get more than the once-over. So as Murdoch prepares to split News Corp. into two entities - one focused on publishing and the other on entertainment - the following paragraph received some attention.

Certainly, the publishing company might become more American over time. It is investing in the U.S. education business and Mr. Murdoch is expected to pursue acquisitions of distressed newspapers, such as the Los Angeles Times, through the new company, say people familiar with the situation. News Corp. declined to comment.

Murdoch's possible interest in the LAT has popped up a few times in recent months, but there's no indication of how serious he might be. The paper's parent company, Tribune Co., remains in bankruptcy protection (December will mark four years) and the major creditors don't appear to be in any hurry to sell off assets. From the Chicago Tribune:

While it is unlikely that any Tribune Co. divestitures will take place out the gate, a year down the road would be less surprising, according to [Howard Marks, 66, chairman and co-founder of Los Angeles-based Oaktree Capital Management, which will be Tribune's largest shareholder.] But he doesn't preclude that Tribune may remain intact for some time. "It's safe to say that nobody knows today what actions are going to be taken," Marks said. "Nobody knows for sure who the CEO is going to be and what he or she is going to recommend, and what the board is going to approve and what value will arise. The most important thing is that these decisions are not predetermined."

Another person familiar with Oaktree's thinking, who declined to be identified, said the investment firm likely won't feel rushed to sell Tribune Co. assets because the company will come out of bankruptcy with plenty of cash flow, allowing it to form a strategy and wait for the best opportunities. During the bankruptcy, the fortunes of Tribune Co.'s print and broadcasting properties have diverged, following industry trends. Tribune Co.'s 23 TV stations -- including WGN-TV in Chicago -- represent the majority of the company's cash flow and net worth, while the Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times and six other daily newspapers have withered to $623 million in value, according to financial adviser Lazard Ltd.

That Tribune piece, which ran a couple of weeks ago and received surprisingly little attention, provides the most detailed information about how Tribune will be structured once it exits bankruptcy.

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Mark Lacter
Mark Lacter created the LA Biz Observed blog in 2006. He posted until the day before his death on Nov. 13, 2013.
Mark Lacter, business writer and editor was 59
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