Report: Hometown Billionaire Bidding For Tribune Co.

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By: E&P Staff

Tribune Co. has at last attracted the attention of a hometown billionaire, the Chicago Tribune reported Wednesday.

Real estate magnate Sam Zell “has emerged as a potential” bidder for the Tribune Co., according to a Tribune article by Michael Oneal and Becky Yerak that cites “several sources close to the matter.”

Zell has made a “complicated proposal that may include taking an equity stake in the company while adding debt to fund a large dividend for shareholders,” the paper reported. It said it could not obtain more details of the offer.

Zell apparently has approached the McCormick Tribune Foundation, a big stakeholder in the company, about his offer, the paper said.

“It’s short of making a bid and more ‘Would you be interested in doing XYZ?'” he newspaper quoted a “source” as saying. “There are a lot of maybes and what-ifs at this point.”

The talks were said to be preliminary and come as the committee of independent Tribune directors are preparing to meet Feb. 12 and 13 to assess progress in the so-far stalled auction.

Among the options the committee is said to be mulling are a management leverage buyout led by current Chairman and CEO Dennis FitzSimons and deals from private equity firms. Reported offers from California billionaires Ron Burkle and Eli Broad; The Carlyle Group, which is looking to buy only Tribune’s television properties; and the Chandler family of Times-Mirror fame “have failed to gain traction” with the board committee the Tribune reported.

Zell, who reportedly is personally worth $4.5 billion, is in the middle of his own big corporate battle over ownership of Equity Office Properties.

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