Freedom Shareholders Approve Private Equity Recap

By: Lucia Moses

Freedom Communications Inc. family shareholders on Wednesday approved by an “overwhelming majority” a board proposal to partially sell the company to two private equity firms, President and CEO Alan Bell said.

“The other shoe has dropped,” Bell said of the preliminary vote count. “This resolves the polarity that has divided this family for years.”

Shareholders have until 10 days before the deal closes, which is expected to take place within the first quarter of 2004, to decide how much of their shares to sell.

The more that is sold, the more debt remaining shareholders will be left with. According to a shareholder hotline, as of Tuesday, family members representing 50.56% of the outstanding shares wished to cash out 48.08% of their shares.

The deal, which capped a seven-month sale process that attracted the likes of Gannett Co. Inc. and MediaNews Group Inc., put a $1.72 billion value on the Irvine, Calif.-based parent of the Orange County Register in Santa Ana, Calif., plus 27 other dailies and eight TV stations. Shares are expected to be valued at $213 each.

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