By: E&P Staff
Billionaire investor Sam Zell said yesterday that he remains in talks with Tribune Co. and his proposal to acquire the media conglomerate still is on the table.
In an interview with The Associated Press, Zell said he doesn’t believe his proposal has lost momentum or fallen out of favor with Tribune, as some reports have suggested.
“There are ongoing conversations,” he said in an interview in his Chicago office.
The real estate magnate, whose Equity Office Properties Trust was sold to the private equity firm Blackstone Group last month for $23 billion, said the discussions began about a month ago when Tribune approached him. He declined to discuss the status of talks.
The media company, which owns Newsday and WPIX/11, among other media properties, has been soliciting a buyer for some or all of its assets since last year.
Pressured by its long-sagging stock price and dissident shareholders, it appointed a special board committee in September to review options for its business – including a possible sale, breakup, or offers to be taken private.
Its self-imposed deadline for making a decision is March 31.
Asked about reports that his plan calls for taking Tribune private for $13 billion, Zell said: “I don’t know anything about the number. I think that the concept would result in it being a private company.”
He confirmed that the proposal calls for “a significant ownership” via an employee stock ownership plan and that he does not intend to break up the company. “We cannot look at it from a breakup perspective,” he said.
Tribune spokesman Gary Weitman, informed of Zell’s remarks, said the company had no comment.