Co. won't decide until next year

Los Angeles Times parent Tribune Co. is extending its strategic review and won’t announce any decision on a sale until the first quarter of next year.

“This process has generated strong interest from a number of parties,” Trib chairman-CEO Dennis FitzSimons said in a statement. Advisers have “recommended that the review process be extended to ensure thorough consideration of all proposals.”

Tribune had originally promised to wrap things up by year’s end.

The Chicago-based publisher and broadcaster launched its review earlier this year as the stock faltered and the Chandler family, a major Trib shareholder and former owner of the Los Angeles Times, agitated for a sale or breakup.

Tribune first offered the entire company for sale, then seemed willing to take bids for individual properties — possibly because early offers came in lower than anticipated.

The L.A. Times, in particular, has been generating lots of heat among the local elite. It has been a tumultuous time at the paper, which lost its publisher and top editor in a conflict over cost cuts mandated by the parent company.

Four preliminary bids have come in from private equity firms, reports say. Los Angeles billionaires Eli Broad and Ron Burkle have made an offer; so has giant newspaper group Gannett, owner of USA Today.

The Chandler family may be considering its own bid.

Music mogul and DreamWorks co-founder David Geffen has expressed interest in buying the L.A. Times. He recently sold a Jackson Pollock painting for $140 million, perhaps in order to finance a bid.

And Maurice “Hank” Greenberg, former chief of giant insurer American Intl. Group, is said to be eyeing newspaper groups, Trib included.

“We are committed to a complete review process that will yield maximum value for all Tribune shareholders. We anticipate a final recommendation to the full board during the first quarter of 2007,” Tribune director William Osborn said Tuesday. Osborn heads an independent special committee of the board that’s overseeing the process.

Separately, Trib said Tuesday that the FCC has approved the sales of TV stations WCWN Albany and WLVI Boston. It’s divesting them as part of a cost-cutting plan that has yielded $450 million in non-core asset sales so far this year.

Tribune’s other properties include the Chicago Tribune, Baltimore Sun, Long Island Newsday, the Chicago Cubs baseball team and 25 TV stations.

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