News Corp.: Reports Murdoch eyeing Chicago Tribune, LA Times ‘wholly inaccurate’
by KARA SPAK Staff Reporter firstname.lastname@example.org October 20, 2012 12:12AM
FILE - In this Oct. 14, 2011 file photo, News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch delivers a keynote address at the National Summit on Education Reform in San Francisco. If the phone hacking scandal gripping Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. empire has a familiar ring, it might be because you've heard the story before. Scrappy outsider turns modest newspaper business into international media conglomerate. Ambition turns to hubris. Mogul dramatically falls from grace. (AP Photo/Noah Berger, File)
Updated: October 20, 2012 8:07PM
Rupert Murdoch’s media empire News Corp. on Saturday shot down reports as “wholly inaccurate” that the company was in talks to possibly acquire the Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune as the newspapers’ parent company exits from bankruptcy, Reuters reported.
On Friday, the Los Angeles Times reported that Murdoch’s News Corp. executives were in “preliminary talks” with Tribune Co.’s debt holders, who are expected to become majority owners when the company emerges from bankruptcy.
Murdoch is the chairman and the chief executive of News Corp., the parent company of media properties such as the New York Post, Fox News, the Wall Street Journal and the Times of London.
The Wall Street Journal also reported this week that Murdoch is eyeing the acquisition of the Los Angeles Times.
News Corp. is in the process of spinning off its newspapers into a separate company in an attempt to separate its financially lagging and scandal-scarred newspaper properties from its more lucrative entertainment and cable news holdings.
The spin-off likely would give the debt-free new company enough cash to buy the Tribune Co. papers, said Ken Doctor, a news industry analyst and author of “Newsonomics.”
“The unintended consequence, which I think is fascinating in terms of Murdoch, is once the newspaper company is separate and he still controls it he is in a sense more free to pursue newspapers as sport,” Doctor said. “This allows him to buy or bid on properties like the L.A. Times and the Chicago Tribune.”
Doctor said he anticipates the Tribune Co. papers will come on the market before News Corp. separates its newspaper assets, but said Murdoch could still go for the Tribune-owned papers.
“He is in control of the company,” Doctor said. “He could say, yes, I’m doing this and this is going to be assets with the new company and those guys over there who have entertainment shares don’t have to worry about that.”
Also complicating any possible transaction between News Corp. and the Tribune Co. are Federal Communications Commission rules prohibiting owners from owning a newspaper and television station in the same market. News Corp. runs two stations in both Los Angeles and Chicago.
A Tribune Co. spokesman declined to comment, though a Los Angeles Times spokeswoman on Saturday told Reuters the paper stood by its reporting.
Other potential suitors interested in acquiring the Los Angeles Times are Austin Beutner, an ex-deputy mayor of Los Angeles and a former venture capitalist; Aaron Kushner, who arranged the $400 million purchase of the Orange County Register and six other papers; and Doug Manchester, who bought the Union Tribune for $110 million.
Murdoch owned the Chicago Sun-Times from 1984 to 1986.
Contributing: Brian Slodysko