Koch Brothers Making Play for Tribune Newspapers

Sunday, 21 Apr 2013 12:47 PM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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Billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch are turning their attention to the newspaper industry, with Koch Industries exploring a bid to buy some of the largest papers in the United States.

The conservative brothers have largely avoided media investments in past years, except for financing some libertarian publications. However, The New York Times reports Koch Industries, headed by Charles Koch as chairman and chief executive, is considering a bid to buy the Tribune Company's regional newspapers, which include The Los Angeles Times, The Chicago Tribune, The Baltimore Sun, The Orlando Sentinel, and The Hartford Courant.

In 2009, the brothers held a seminar for wealthy donors in Aspen, Colo. to outline their 10-year strategy to push for a smaller government with fewer taxes and regulations. Since then, they have worked to educate grass-roots activists and influence politics, but have not made a move toward media ownership.

The Tribune Company is expected to send out financial data about the sale of their newspapers, which still enjoy some of the largest circulations in the United States. Tribune came out of bankruptcy on Dec. 31, and the papers are valued at $623 million.

Koch Industries, an energy and manufacturing group based in Wichita, Kan., has an annual revenue of $115 billion.

The papers are located in several political battleground states, so the Kochs could use them to push some of their more libertarian stances. For example, two of the papers, The Orlando Sentinel and The Sun Sentinel in Fort Lauderdale, are Tribune-owned and the largest newspapers in Florida, a key state politically.

Another deal may involve Hoy, the nation's second-largest Spanish language dailies, which could give the Kochs greater access to Hispanics.

Koch Industries has been holding seminars since 2003, and while one person who attended them said they never heard the Kochs say they want to be involved in newspaper publishing, the brothers have often complained that the conservative voice was not well represented in the media.

Others interested in the newspapers, include a group of Los Angeles residents led by billionaires Eli Broad and Ronald W. Burkle, both prominent Democratic donors. Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation has also been mentioned.

Tribune wants to sell all eight of its newspapers and their operations as a bundle. If a high enough offer does not come Tribune could opt to keep the papers. The company also owns 23 television stations.


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