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Tribune Tag Sale

The Tribune Company announced recently that it was extending its "strategic review process" to "ensure thorough consideration of all proposals" by suitors hoping to buy the company - as a whole or in parts. Even if someone buys the whole company, they may sell off its parts.

In other words,Tribune is having a garage sale!

We do some window shopping.

Property: Los Angeles Times.
Estimated value: $2.5 billion.
Pros of ownership: Despite damage done by two successive bumbling owners, the Times still rakes it in. The most profitable - and the best - newspaper Tribune Co. publishes. Plus, huge vanity potential for a egomaniacal Hollywood type.
Cons of ownership: gets all the great video these days. Los Angeles is a city that makes no sense, and thus, neither does any citywide newspaper. Pacific time zone.
Potential Buyers: Egomaniacal type David Geffen; Beverly Hills supermarket magnate Ron Burkle; 42nd-richest guy in America Eli Broad.
Dark Horse: O.J. Simpson, who could put the investigative unit to work looking for the real killers.
Chances it will be sold off: 50 percent.
Why: If Tribune Co. decides its purpose in life is to operate big newspapers, which suddenly nobody really wants to own, while selling all the other stuff that people actually want to own, then the Times should stay off the auction block. But Tribune Co.'s high-profile fights with Times management have not endeared it to Angelenos, particularly of the billionaire variety, so this could be an ego buy by concerned citizens who value the newspaper above and beyond the balance sheet.
Importance to Chicago: Other than the money sent back to Chicago (curiously reminiscent of the money The Outfit sucked out of Vegas and sent back home), none. Unless you think destroying another city's newspaper has civic value.

Property: Chicago Tribune.
Estimated Value: $1.8 billion.
Pros: Owns the exclusive local rights to Doonesbury.
Cons: Must break bad news to Q staff that they're being laid off.
Potential Buyers: Yusef Jackson is interested in the Sun-Times, but no one has stepped forward to express an interest in the Trib per se.
Dark Horse: Billy Corgan. Turns Tower into goth condos.
Chances sold off: 0.5 percent.
Why:It's hard to imagine even the surliest of shareholders demanding that Tribune Company sell the Chicago Tribune. Management's ego would take too big a blow, too; especially if forced to sell the Cubs.
Importance to Chicago: Hold on, we're thinking.

Property: Newsday.
Est. value: $1 billion.
Pros: A newspaper ostensibly in New York City, though it's really based in Long Island and has largely retreated from the city.
Cons: It's really published in Long Island and no longer publishes a city edition.
Potential Buyers: Developer Robert Toussie.
Dark Horse: Billy Joel.
Chances sold off: 10 percent.
Why: Newsday has always been a headache, from its haphazard tabloid style to its in-NYC out-of-NYC strategy. Just getting over circulation scandals.
Importance to Chicago: See Los Angeles Times.

Property: WGN-TV.
Est. Value: $750 million.
Pros: Helps Tribune control everything.
Cons: They have to show at least a few Cubs games.
Potential Buyers: None that we know of.
Dark Horse: The cruelly dispatched Bozo the Clown gets his revenge.
Chances sold off: 10 percent.
Why: Tribune Co.'s one core strategy - no, not acquiring random assets around the country, the other strategy - has been to own newspapers and television stations in the same market and synergize the hell out of them. Unfortunately this is also against the law, but by the time cross-ownership was made illegal in 1975 Tribune already owned WGN and was grandfathered in. Some analysts aren't convinced cross-ownership is really valuable, but it is management's one idea, and they're sold on it.
Importance to Chicago: Get to see Tom Skilling live, not just Ask Tom Why.

Property: Chicago Cubs.
Est. value: $500 million, or roughly 3.7 Alfonso Sorianos at $136 million per Soriano.
Pros: Comes with Wrigley Field.
Cons: Comes with curse.
Potential Buyers: Mark Cuban; Chicago Wolves owner Don Levin.
Dark Horse: Sammy Sosa gets his revenge; Steve Stone gets his revenge.
Chances sold off: 60 percent.
Why: The Cubs, one of Tribune's entertainment assets, are "non-strategic," in case you hadn't already figured that out, and a buyer looking to get their hands on a trophy asset like the Cubs may shell out a little more than the team's cash flow would deem prudent. Hell, they may even feel like putting together a decent bullpen.
Importance to Chicago: Critical. Bumbling management gives even the most dimwitted Chicagoans a few folks to feel superior to.

Property: WGN Superstation.
Est. value: $250 million.
Pros: It's nationwide.
Cons: It's bad.
Potential Buyers: Time-Warner and CBS already own stakes.
Dark Horse: Ted Turner. Want back in the game.
Chances sold off: 40 percent.
Why: Tribune's national cable station is typically grouped with the other non-strategic assets like the Cubs as a strong sell-off candidate. Apparently there are people out there who really want to get their hands on Lizzie McGuire and Becker.
Importance to Chicago: Scrubs is set here. No, wait, that was ER. None whatsoever.

Property: WPHL Philadelphia; WLVI Boston [SOLD 12/19]; KDAF Dallas-Ft Worth; WBDC Washington; KHCW Houston; KCPQ Seattle-Tacoma; KMYQ Seattle-Tacoma; WSFL South Florida; KWGN Denver; KTXL St. Louis; KRCW Portland; WXIN Indianapolis; WTTV Indianapolis; KSWB San Diego; WTIC Hartford; WTXX Hartford; WXMI Grand Rapids; WGNO New Orleans; WNOL New Orleans; WPMT Harrisburg; WCWN Albany
Est. value: $3 billion.
Pros: Roster makes it look like company is a national powerhouse.
Cons: Regulatory nightmare.
Potential Buyers: Gannett; Freedom Communications.
Dark Horse: Ted Turner. Wants back in the game.
Chances sold off: Exactly 52 percent for every single one of them.
Why: If Tribune Co. decides the company should focus on playing in major markets, then selling these stations could help raise cash. Of these 21 20 stations, 13 12 are affiliates of the CW Network, which was created this year from old WB and UPN programming. The network's launch has been a bit uneven, but in the long run any network offering both WWE Smackdown and America's Next Top Model couldn't possibly fail. The CW's relatively lower ratings would make the sales process easier, as these stations could be purchased by in-market buyers. Regulations would prohibit Tribune's six FOX affiliates or its one ABC affiliate from being owned by companies which already own stations in the same market. Selling these 21 20 TV stations could be the most complicated part of the whole deal, because Tribune's television assets are sufficiently tangled that selling them all would likely require at least six different purchasers to satisfy regulatory requirements.
Importance to Chicago: Did you even know they owned these stations? Thought so.

Property: Baltimore Sun
Est. value: No one has really said yet.
Pros: Luxury suite at Camden Yards.
Cons: It's in Baltimore. Ever watch The Wire?
Potential Buyers: The Abell Foundation; former pol Theodore Venetoulis; civic leader Walter Sondheim.
Dark Horse: Barry Levinson.
Chances sold off: 40 percent.
Why: The Baltimore Sun is one of Tribune's strong holdings in the oft-maligned newspaper industry, which has been battered by Wall Street analysts not because of plummeting profitability - margins, while down at many papers, remain strong - but because of the storms on the horizon in the form of decreased readership and competition from the Internet and other news sources.
Importance to Chicago: See Los Angeles Times.

Property: WGN Radio.
Est. Value: $200 million.
Pros: Powerful transmitter.
Cons: Audience dying off.
Potential Buyers: Clear Channel; Infinity; CBS.
Dark Horse: Mancow.
Chances sold off: 25 percent.
Why: World's Greatest Newspaper Radio is the dominant AM station in town. If the company coalesces around Chicago, it will hold on to this, the Trib, and the rest of its Chicago properties.
Importance to Chicago: Hold on, we're thinking.

Property: RedEye.
Est. Value: Free.
Pros: Everyone needs something to read on the train.
Cons: Have you ever read it?
Potential Buyers: None yet.
Dark Horse: Mancow.
Chances sold off: 0 percent.
Why: It's Tribune management's idea of the perfect newspaper.
Importance to Chicago: Distracts CTA riders from impending fires and derailments.

Property: Chicago magazine.
Est. value: Just $1 a month! That's 80 percent off the newsstand rate!
Pros: Exposes how vain "society" can be.
Cons: Exposes how vain "society" can be.
Potential Buyers: Joe Mansueto; Emmis Communications.
Dark Horse: Sugar Rautbord.
Chances sold off: 10 percent.
Why: It's Tribune management's idea of the perfect magazine.
mportance to Chicago: Exposes how vain "society" can be.

Property: South Florida Sun-Sentinel; Orlando Sentinel; Hartford Courant; Morning Call; Daily Press; The Advocate; Greenwich Time.
Est. value: $100 million.
Pros: Connecticut papers have kind of cool names.
Cons: Locations aren't exactly garden spots of the nation.
Potential Buyers: Gannett.
Dark Horse: Castro; Disney Co.; Allstate; Dave Wannstedt; U.S. Navy; Ned Lamont.
Chances sold off: 50 percent.
Why: Florida papers are huge cash machines. The rest were acquired in the Times-Mirror deal and must be dumped to cleanse the company. Tying up the Connecticut market might look good on paper - look at those fancy NYC suburban folk - but not so much in reality, and something's gotta give.
Importance to Chicago: See Los Angeles Times.

Property: Food Network.
Est. Value: $750 million (Trib Co. has a 30 percent stake; manager and general partner is E.W. Scripps Co.).
Pros: People always need to eat.
Cons: Rachael Ray has peaked.
Potential Buyers: Scripps.
Chances sold off: 80 percent.
Why: Not a core asset; short-term windfall.
Importance to Chicago: Opportunity to boo Rachael Ray while she sings the 7th inning stretch at Wrigley?

Property: WPIX New York; KTLA Los Angeles.
Est. Value: $850 million each.
Pros: Major markets, duh.
Cons: Both are part of the CW.
Potential Buyers: We really have no idea. Bloomberg? Geffen?
Dark Horse: Howard Stern; Phil Jackson.
Chances sold off: 60 percent each.
Why: The Tribune's innovative "control everything in the same market" strategy has been harder to pull off on the coasts than here in Chicago. Tribune will have to seek a special dispensation from the FCC once the current licenses for these stations expire. Apparently the original idea was to buy the stations and assume the cross-ownership restrictions would be removed, which in retrospect seems somewhat careless. The Democrat victories in Congress have probably put the kibosh on that plan.
Importance to Chicago: None whatsoever.

Property: CLTV.
Est. Value: Is that still around?

Est. Value: $600 million. (Trib Co. has a 42.5 percent stake; co-owned with Gannett and Knight-Ridder.)
Pros: People always need jobs; online classifieds rule.
Cons: None. Just passed as the leading online classifieds site.
Potential Buyers: Too numerous to list.
Dark Horse: Craig Newmark.
Chances sold off: 80 percent.
Why: Tribune has ridden CareerBuilder through a great growth stage, putting the company in a strong position to cash out. But they may opt to hold on if management believes they can leverage the website to further develop their newspaper classified revenue, and vice-versa.
Importance to Chicago: Did you know their headquarters is here? Me neither. They're in the Loop, on LaSalle. But it's the Internet, so who cares? If it moves, we'll still be allowed to use it.


Posted on December 18, 2006

MUSIC - Chief Keef Changed The Industry.
TV - Vizio's Best Product Is You.
POLITICS - UIC: Soda Taxes Work.
SPORTS - More McCaskey Malpractice.

BOOKS - All About Poop.


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