Freedom Seeks Broker to Sell Phoenix-Area Papers

By: Freedom Communications is asking a bankruptcy judge to allow it to hire a broker to pursue the sale of its Phoenix-area publications, including the East Valley Tribune.

The filing in a Delaware court Thursday is part of the proceedings related to Freedom's Sept. 1 Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing. Besides the Tribune, the properties targeted for sale include the Sun City Daily News-Sun, Ahwatukee Foothills News and the Clipper coupon booklet in the Phoenix area.

Freedom's flagship paper is the Orange County Register in California, but it owns eight television stations and dozens of other newspapers, including The Sun in Yuma.

"We have for some time been exploring all strategic options for our Phoenix-area properties and this is a continuation of that effort," Tribune Publisher Julie Moreno told the newspaper.

In its bankruptcy filing earlier this month, Freedom listed debts of more than $1 billion. Much of that was incurred in 2004, when the company bought out some members of the Hoiles family, which has controlled the company since its founding more than 70 years ago. Two outside investor groups financed the buyout.

Along with other media companies, Freedom experienced a steep decline in advertising revenue and increasing competition from the Internet in recent years. The ongoing recession made matters worse, and Freedom defaulted on its debt obligations.

The steep revenue drop affected the Tribune, and it enacted major cuts in its work force and distribution area. The paper also went to a free distribution model and changed its publication schedule from seven to three days a week.

Twenty-seven lenders, led by major banks such as J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., agreed to forgive most of the debt in exchange for control of the company. The Chapter 11 filing and restructuring was part of that agreement. The company said it expects to emerge from bankruptcy within six months.

Freedom, based in Irvine, Calif., purchased the Tribune and its other Arizona properties in 2000.


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