Revitalised Tribune media group expected to begin selling assets

Tribune Co building in Chicago.  Photo / AP
Tribune Co building in Chicago. Photo / AP

US media conglomerate Tribune Co has exited bankruptcy after four years of court supervision, with the future of its assets including the Chicago Tribune and Los Angeles Times uncertain.

The Chicago-based company said it emerged from bankruptcy protection on Monday "with a portfolio of profitable assets, strong liquidity, and a new board of directors".

The reorganisation plan allowed a group of hedge funds and banks based in Los Angeles and New York to take over the media company, which filed for bankruptcy protection in December 2008 after a leveraged buyout left it saddled with debt.

An article in the company's flagship Chicago Tribune said virtually all the media assets are expected to eventually be sold.

Some reports have said Rupert Murdoch's News Corp is interested in purchasing the Chicago newspaper and possibly the Los Angeles Times. The Tribune article said billionaire Warren Buffett may also be seeking to add to his newspaper properties.

According to the same article, a 2012 analysis by financial adviser Lazard valued the Tribune's broadcasting assets at US$2.85 billion ($3.44 billion) while other strategic assets, including the jobs website, CareerBuilder, and cable channel Food Network, are worth US$2.26 billion.

The company owns 23 television stations and a number of leading daily newspapers include the Baltimore Sun and Orlando Sentinel along with the dailies in Chicago and Los Angeles.

Eddy Hartenstein, publisher of the Los Angeles Times and current chief executive of the company, will remain in the role until the board convenes in the next few weeks.

The Los Angeles Times and others have reported that Peter Liguori, a former executive at News Corp and Discovery Communications, will become the new chief executive.

The board also includes Ross Levinsohn, the former interim CEO at Yahoo!, and Peter Murphy, a former Walt Disney executive.

Reports in the Chicago Tribune said the new owners are focused on cable channel WGN and will be looking to boost its value before an eventual sale.

On emergence, the company will receive a new US$1.1 billion loan and a new US$300 million credit facility for operations.

It will issue to former creditors around 100 million shares of new stock.

Sam Zell, a Chicago real estate titan, led an US$8 billion leveraged buyout of the Tribune Co in 2007, and the company declared bankruptcy the next year, with US$13 billion in debt.

It sold the Chicago Cubs baseball franchise and its iconic stadium, Wrigley Field, in 2009.

- AAP

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