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Protesters want to prevent sale of Tribune to Koch brothers

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Updated: June 10, 2013 2:04PM

A group that says it is adamantly against the potential sale of the Tribune Co. newspapers to the Koch Brothers held a protest outside the Tribune Tower on Wednesday, temporarily blocking pedestrian traffic on busy Michigan Avenue.

They ticked off a litany of complaints against the political views of Charles and David Koch, who lead Koch Industries Inc., one of the largest private companies in the United States.

Reporting annual revenues of $115 billion and interests in oil refining, pipelines, chemicals and paper products, Koch Industries’ owners are ardent promoters of free-market views, and the brothers have been aggressive lobbyists against legislation they feel would affect their companies.

Some 25 members of several local community organizations calling themselves Stand Up Chicago, marched with picket signs and chanted slogans such as: “Cut the lies. End the greed. Give us the news we need,” and “Koch, Koch, you’re the worst. Time to put the people first.”

With their demands to meet with Tribune Board Chairman Bruce Karsh rebuffed, they eventually settled for presenting an oversized letter outlining their concerned to the building security chief, who promised to get it to Tribune Co. officials.

“We’re here protesting the potential sale of the Tribune and the company which includes the L.A. Times, Baltimore Sun and the second largest Spanish language newspaper, Hoy, to the Koch Brothers who have been pushing their right-wing, extremist agenda across this nation,” said Deivid Rojas, 24, of the group, Workers Organizing Committee of Chicago.

“This sale could be done in two months, and the Koch Brothers are the highest bidder. Their agenda is anti-union, anti-minimum wage, and they want to defund education. These are things that hurt the working class, and we’re concerned selling to the Koch Brothers will impact the integrity of this and all other Tribune newspapers.”

Tribune has retained the investment banks JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Evercore Partners Inc. to field offers for the newspapers. A financial adviser’s estimate last year when the company was in bankruptcy put the papers’ worth at $623 million, but bidding could send their prices much higher.

The Koch brothers are among the pool of potential buyers for Tribune Co. newspapers that also includes Lee Mitchell, managing partner at investment firm Thoma Bravo LLC,

Executives behind Wrapports LLC, the owner of the Sun-Times, also have said they are interested in acquiring the Chicago Tribune and related assets, such as its printing plant. The Tribune prints the Sun-Times in a $70 million-a-year contract.

“We have made our message known. Even if it’s a whisper, I think it will carry very far. We want to put the people of this city and other cities across the country first, not the highest bidder,” organizer Shani Smith said after exiting Tribune Tower, having delivered the letter. “

“The Koch Brothers have been using many platforms to push their radical libertarian agenda, from being major funders of the Tea Party, to funding all these right-wing, conservative think tanks, and they have been vocal about that agenda including privatizing social security,” Smith said. “We want to be able to protect freedom of speech. We need real news, not right-wing Tea Party propaganda.”

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