Like vultures hovering over roadkill, media companies and private-equity firms are expected to pick at what remains of Irvine's Freedom Communications--parent company ofTheOrange County Register
of Santa Ana--at auction Thursday.
Among those likely placing bids will be Chicago-based Tribune, which owns the Los Angeles Times, and Denver-based MediaNews, which owns just about every daily newspaper in Southern California that is not the Times, Register or San Diego Union-Tribune, which is owned by Platinum Equity, another probable bidder HQ'd in LA.
The Wall Street Journal reports bidders will be allowed to break off Freedom's newspapers from its other media holdings, such as TV stations. Alone, the newspapers could reportedly fetch up to $350 million and the TV stations up to $400 million.
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Freedom exited bankruptcy proceedings last year after shaving off $450 million in debt.
"The people familiar with the matter cautioned that a number of complexities surround potential offers and it will take time to finalize a transaction," warns the Journal, which notes bidders owning stock in other companies bidding on Freedom constitutes one such complexity.
A Tribune bid would be complicated by antitrust issues since the Times and Register compete in overlapping markets.
Then there's the fact the Windy City company remains bundled like a stack of yellowing newspapers in bankruptcy court. Tribune's attempts to exit bankruptcy protection bogged down last summer after a court-appointed examiner released a report stating parts of the buyout probably constituted fraud.