Tribune Co., the media company that entered discussions to sell its newspapers earlier this year, is seeking a single buyer for all of the publications, said two people with knowledge of the process.
Tribune, which emerged from bankruptcy at the end of 2012, owns the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune, the Baltimore Sun and six other daily papers. While the bidding is still in the early stages, the company is seeking buyers who are willing to buy the newspaper chain together, said the people, who asked not to be named because the talks are private.
Doing a single transaction would simplify the process for Tribune, letting it focus on its more lucrative television business. The company, based in Chicago, brought on former Fox Broadcasting President Peter Liguori as its chief executive officer in January. Tribune operates 23 TV stations, along with websites such as Cars.com.
Aaron Kushner’s Freedom Communications Inc., which publishes the Orange County Register and other papers in California and Arizona, is one bidder interested in owning all of Tribune’s newspapers, according to the people.
Other interested parties would prefer to buy individual publications rather than the entire lot, according to the people. Rupert Murdoch, chairman and CEO of News Corp., is considering the Los Angeles Times, while Wrapports LLC, the publisher of the Chicago Sun-Times, is interested in the Chicago Tribune, the people said. They said Warren Buffett, who told investors last week that he’s looking to buy more newspapers, has expressed interest in the Morning Call, a community newspaper based in Allentown, Pennsylvania that is one of the smallest in Tribune Co.’s collection.
It may still be possible for multiple bidders to team up on a single transaction depending on how the negotiations go, the people said. Tribune is assessing deals with the help of JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Evercore Partners Inc., which were hired as financial advisers after the company received unsolicited interest in the newspapers, people familiar with the matter said last week.
Gary Weitman, a Tribune spokesman, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment, as did representatives for Freedom Communications, Buffett and Wrapports. Nathaniel Brown, a spokesman for New York-based News Corp., declined to comment.
Tribune’s publishing group was valued at about $623 million in its bankruptcy filings, $300 million lower than a January 2011 estimate.
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