Tribune suitors mull plan B

Broad, Burkle won't accept no

The tussle for Tribune Co. may not be over yet.

Sources close to the situation say Los Angeles billionaires Eli Broad and Ron Burkle huddled with advisers Tuesday to evaluate their options for continuing their pursuit of the Chicago-based newspaper and TV giant in the wake of the Tribune board’s decision to embrace the $8.2 billion offer from Chicago real estate magnate Sam Zell (Daily Variety, April 3).

Reps for Broad and Burkle declined comment on the matter, but sources said the two men and their advisers are poring over the details released Monday of the oh-so-complicated Zell buyout offer that involves the creation of an employee stock ownership plan, or ESOP.

The Broad-Burkle offer that Zell’s bid topped also valued Tribune at $8.2 billion and included an ESOP. Tribune brass made it clear Monday that one reason Zell’s bid prevailed was because it offered far more details about how the ESOP would work.

Broad and Burkle’s last sweetened offer for Tribune came in under the wire late last week just before the Tribune special committee convened over the weekend in Chicago to evaluate the offers and decide the fate of the company.

Meanwhile, a number of senior executives from Tribune-owned newspapers and TV stations heard from Zell on Tuesday at a meeting at the company headquarters in Chicago. Zell told the assembled executives that he had every incentive to keep the newspaper and TV station assets together for at least 10 years, if only to avoid a punishing tax bill.

Zell and embattled Tribune CEO Dennis FitzSimons, who will remain at the helm of the company under the Zell buyout plan, told the executives the deal was “solid” and other bidders would have to step up with significantly more coin to derail the plan announced Monday. But outsiders have noted that the Zell-Tribune pact includes a relatively modest $25 million breakup fee, which is not nearly enough to scare off a determined billionaire — or two — from upping the ante yet again.

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