Trib propels paper chase

Co. could accept bids for its individual media properties

Take heart, David Geffen: The L.A. Times could be in reach.

Parent Tribune may decide the parts are worth more than the whole.

In a shift from its initial strategy, Tribune Co. could accept bids for its individual media properties, including the Los Angeles Times, after preliminary offers for the whole company are said to have come in below expectations.

Bids for Chicago-based Trib were due Friday, and several private equity groups put in nonbinding offers. They’re very early stage — made before the groups have had a chance to examine Tribune’s books. The bids are said to have valued shares of the publishing and broadcasting company in the low $30s.

Shares closed Wednesday at $32.62.

A Tribune rep declined comment but referred back to a Sept. 28 statement by CEO Dennis FitzSimons announcing that the company would be “determining the best strategic alternatives for the company and its publishing and broadcast groups as a whole before evaluating strategic alternatives for individual business units.”

At that time, Tribune said it expected to conclude its review by the end of the year.

Newspapers continue to be hot properties even as circulation slips.

Geffen is among those interested in buying the Times, along with other wealthy Angelenos including Ron Burkle and Eli Broad.

Groups in Hartford and Baltimore have expressed interest in the company’s Hartford Courant and Baltimore Sun. Frank Zarb, a managing director of New York firm Hellman & Friedman, is eyeing Newsday.

The equity groups already in the ring include the trio of Madison Dearborn Partners, Providence Equity and Apollo Management; Texas Pacific Group and Thomas H. Lee Partners; and Carlyle Group.

“I think at the end of the day, they’ll sell the whole company,” speculated one media industry exec. He figures the financial firms “will all get together” and raise their offer.

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