Two US newspapers, the Los Angeles Times and the Chicago Tribune, are reporting that Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation is gearing up to acquire them.
The titles are currently owned by the debt-laden Tribune Company, which is likely to end up in the hands of two investment firms and a bank in an expected exit from bankruptcy protection in the near future.
According to the LA Times, Murdoch “is said to be in early talks” about the acquisition and cites as its source “two ranking News Corp executives and others familiar with the situation.”
There are ties between the two companies. Copies of Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal are printed on presses at both the LA Times and Chicago Tribune.
And nine of Tribune 23 TV stations carry programming from News Corp’s two broadcast networks while seven Tribune stations are Fox network affiliates.
Federal Communications Commission rules prevent media companies from owning a newspaper and TV stations in the same market. News Corp owns two Fox stations in LA and two in Chicago. But exceptions have been granted in the past, to both Tribune and News Corp.
Perhaps the most surprising feature of such a bid is that Murdoch is contemplating it at a time when News Corp is supposedly preparing to split into two distinct companies.
The proposed break-up, creating separate publishing and entertainment divisions, was designed to appease investors who see little value in the company’s newspaper holdings.
Then again, Murdoch has long coveted owning the LA Times and experience suggests that when he wants something he usually gets it.