Firms eye a Tribune buy

Bain, Lee may bid for L.A. Times parent co.

Two private equity firms, Bain Capital and Thomas H. Lee Partners, are said to be planning competing bids for Los Angeles Times parent Tribune. Bain would pursue Tribune alone, while Thomas H. Lee has teamed up with Texas Pacific Group.

Initial offers, which are nonbinding and made before potential suitors have studied Tribune’s book in depth, were due Friday. Tribune, which is looking to sell some or all of its assets, has said it will announce its plans by year’s end.

The push to consider a sale or breakup was instigated last summer by the Chandler family, which owned the L.A. Times and other papers and sold their company to Tribune in 2000, becoming its largest single shareholder. They’ve been dissatisfied for years with Trib’s management, its financial results and its stock price.

Trib currently boasts a market cap of about $8 billion.

Some reports said Apollo Management, Madison Dearborn Partners and Providence Equity were considering a combined bid for Tribune, and that Carlyle Group could make its own offer.

It’s not clear what a private equity deal would mean for the L.A. Times, one of Tribune’s crown jewels and a paper that’s coveted by a handful of local luminaries, David Geffen in particular. An investment firm could opt to keep the company intact or sell off the assets piecemeal.

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