Orange County Register Owner Freedom Communications' Papers, TV Stations for Sale

Update, November 18, 5:20 p.m.: A media industry watcher suggests
Freedom Communications may have a strategy behind what would seem to be a
counter-intuitive move to sell the modern-day equivalent of buggy
whips, daily newspapers.

“Might the strategy be to sell some of the properties, keep others
reposition the company by investing the proceeds in digital ventures?” Rick Edmonds writes on Poynter Online's The Biz Blog.

In “Why Orange County Register, Freedom Communications,
TV Stations for Sale?”
Edmonds shares these “tea leaves” to support the theory:

  • When
    transitional CEO
    Burl Osborne, former chairman of the Associated Press
    and longtime publisher of the
    Dallas Morning News, left Freedom, he was replaced by Mitchell Stern, who once ran Fox Television Stations, Inc. Earlier this month, Stern named another former Fox executive, Thomas Herwitz, to run the TV station group. Freedom is reportedly asking $400-500 million for its broadcast properties.
  • Larry
    , the digital entrepreneur who built MarketWatch, which Dow Jones
    ultimately acquired for $500 million, joined the Freedom board this
  • Freedom has been aggressively developing mobile phone apps for several years, and the Register was one of the first regional papers this summer to pilot an iPad app as well.

Then again, Edmonds offers, a sale could signal a “California consolidation play”:

  • Industry
    chit-chat has suggested the huge South California market could be ripe
    for consolidation. Tribune owns the
    Los Angeles Times, and the San Diego
    Union-Tribune was sold last year to a private group headed by Platinum
    Equity of Beverly Hills.
    Dean Singleton's MediaNews group owns a number
    of suburban Los Angeles papers.
  • While the pace of
    mergers and acquisitions has been picking up lately, none of any scale
    have taken shape among newspapers or television stations. A major deal
    would break a four-year period in which consolidation stopped, and a
    number of the biggest companies–like Gannett and McClatchy–have
    disposed of some of their newspapers.

Hey, as long as Mickadeit gets lost in the shuffle, go for it. (I kid, Frankie, I kid.)

Original post, November 18, 3:12 p.m.: Now that Orange County Register owner
Freedom Communications has emerged from bankruptcy, the Irvine-based
media company is considering offers on its newspapers and television

(Subliminal message to OC Weekly's Village Voice
Media overlords: Let's ditch the company Christmas party, forgo the
no-deductible bikini waxes and pass a coffee can around the newsroom so
we can buy out our brothers and sistahs on Grand Avenue!) “Freedom Communications Inc. says the offers have come during a review of strategic options for the company, which emerged from bankruptcy protection in April,” reports the Associated Press. “The company would not name the potential buyers or give details about which properties have drawn interest.”

Freedom, which filed for Chapter 11 protection in September 2009,
was taken over by lenders and private equity firms that agreed to cut its debts to $325 million from $770 million. The Santa Ana-based Reg is the flagship newspaper for the company that owns 100
daily and weekly newspapers, several magazines and eight TV stations
around the country.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *