Chandler Family Gets Serious About Move on Tribune

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Representatives from the California-based Chandler family, Tribune Co.’s largest shareholder, attended sales presentations for the company at its Chicago headquarters this week, according to a published report.

Citing unidentified sources with knowledge of the situation, the Chicago Tribune reported Thursday that the family seems to be working with at least one of the private-equity firms that have shown interest in the company.

Also citing unidentified sources, the Los Angeles Times reported earlier this week that the Chandlers have talked with billionaire Ron Burkle’s investment firm about making a joint offer for some or all of Tribune’s assets.

Messages left for representatives for the Chandler family and the Tribune were not immediately returned early Thursday.

The Chandlers sold Times Mirror, owner of the Los Angeles Times, to Tribune in 2000 for $6.5 billion. Members of the family have been pressuring Tribune to sell off all or parts of the company given its lagging stock price and slumping fortunes.

The company announced its willingness for a sale in September, but officials have been tightlipped about how many bids have been received and for how much. The deadline for bids is Jan. 17.

In a note to employees Wednesday, Tribune chairman and CEO Denis FitzSimons said the company is “stable and financially strong.” He said the Tribune will generate more than $1.3 billion in cash this year.

However, he also hinted at the difficulty the company faces in trying to negotiate a deal.

“This has proven to be a complex and time-consuming process,” he said.

Sources told the Chicago newspaper for Thursday’s story that the company has given sales presentations to rival media giant Gannett Co. and in Los Angeles to representatives for billionaire businessman Eli Broad and Burkle, both of whom have expressed interest in buying the Los Angeles Times.

Tribune has also given presentations to seven private-equity firms, sources said, including: Boston-based Bain Capital, Chicago’s Madison Dearborn Partners, New York-based Apollo Management, Providence Equity Partners of Rhode Island, the Carlyle Group of Washington, D.C. and an alliance of Texas Pacific Group and Thomas H. Lee Partners.

Tribune owns 11 papers, including the Chicago Tribune and Los Angeles Times, as well as 23 television stations and the Chicago Cubs baseball team.

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