Tribune Co. likely to emerge from bankruptcy Monday
BY MAUDLYNE IHEJIRIKA Staff Reporter firstname.lastname@example.org December 28, 2012 9:18PM
Updated: January 30, 2013 6:13AM
The Tribune Co., the media giant that owns the Chicago Tribune, WGN-TV and radio, and many other newspapers and television stations across the country is likely to emerge from bankruptcy on Dec. 31, a source tells the Sun-Times.
On Friday, Reuters reported the company expects to emerge with all of its assets and name former Fox TV and Discovery Communications executive Peter Liguori as chief executive.
Tribune Senior Vice President of Corporate Relations, Gary Weitman, on Friday declined comment on the Monday deadline or the Reuters report.
“There’s a lot of speculation about the timing, and we’ve not commented on any of it,” said Weitman, reached late Friday.
As for salvaged assets and new leadership, “I haven’t seen the Reuters story. We’ve not said that,” Weitman said.
However, a source told the Sun-Times on Thursday that Tribune was working overtime to tie up the four years of Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection by New Year’s Eve, for many reasons, not the least of which is that emerging in 2012 would be of tax benefit to some of its creditors.
The company cleared the last of its hurdles on Nov. 16, when the Federal Communications Commission granted Tribune a permanent waiver from rules banning a newspaper publisher from owning broadcast stations in the Chicago market and temporary waivers in four other cities, a prerequisite to come out of bankruptcy.
No further court action is needed, as a federal judge in July approved the exit parameters, in handing control of the company to primary debt holders led by JPMorgan Chase & Co., and hedge funds Oaktree Capital Management LP, and Angelo, Gordon & Co.
A Tribune statement on its website Friday said of that last hurdle: “The decision by the FCC enables the company to continue moving forward toward emergence from Chapter 11, a process it expects to complete over the course of the next several weeks. The company is currently targeting for the Effective Date to occur on or before December 31, 2012.”
The FCC approval was also the last hurdle before the company could install a new board and managers.
Media industry analysts agree the new owners will seek the greatest profit venue — selling off the Tribune’s crown-jewel media properties and other, lesser assets. Tribune Co. also owns the Los Angeles Times, the Sun of Baltimore and five other prominent newspapers, with its most valuable assets lying in its 24 TV stations, especially WGN.
The company ended up in bankruptcy after Chicago real estate tycoon Sam Zell purchased it for $8.2 billion in 2007, leaving Tribune Co. with $13 billion in debt just as changes in technology started reducing advertising in traditional print media. The company no longer generated enough cash to cover the debt as well as operations.
Contributing: David Roeder