Tribune Co. hires banks to manage offers for newspapers

Tribune Co. has hired two investment banks to manage offers to buy its newspapers, executives said Tuesday, adding that no decisions have been made about whether to sell any properties.

JPMorgan Chase and Evercore Partners will oversee a process to consider offers for Tribune Co.’s publishing assets, including The Baltimore Sun, Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times and five other newspapers. JPMorgan is an owner of Tribune Co.

“There is a lot of interest in our newspapers, which we haven’t solicited,” Gary Weitman, Tribune Co. spokesman, said in a statement. “Hiring outside financial advisers will help us determine whether that interest is credible, allow us to consider all of our options and fulfill our fiduciary responsibility to our shareholders and employees.”

Chicago-based Tribune Co. emerged from four years in Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings on Dec. 31, majority owned by its senior creditors, JPMorgan, Oaktree Capital Management and Angelo Gordon. Television executive Peter Liguori was named the chief executive last month.

Liguori’s first month on the job has focused on assessing Tribune Co.’s media assets, which include 23 television stations, national cable channel WGN America and WGN Radio.

Tribune Co. also owns the newspapers in Hartford, Conn.; Newport News, Va.; Allentown, Pa.; and Orlando and Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

Some prominent names have emerged as possible buyers. One is investor Warren Buffett, who told The Morning Call in Allentown that the city “is our kind of place” after being asked whether his company, Berkshire Hathaway, might buy the paper.

One potential suitor for The Baltimore Sun is a loose group of would-be investors organized by the Abell Foundation, launched by the family that started the newspaper in 1837. Ted Venetoulis, a publisher and former Baltimore County executive who is involved with that group, said Tuesday that there’s still local interest in buying The Sun, but less so if the “price gets out of hand.”

There’s no guarantee that locals will get a chance. Tribune might decide to sell all its papers to one buyer, Venetoulis said.

David S. Cordish, whose Baltimore-based Cordish Cos. owns properties such as Power Plant Live and the Maryland Live Casino, said Tuesday that he is still considering the possibility of buying The Sun. The California-based Orange County Register’s publisher, Aaron Kushner, repeated reiterated his potential interest as well.

Baltimore Sun reporter Jamie Smith Hopkins contributed to this article.

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