Thursday, January 18, 2007

Broad/Burkle Bid For Tribune Co. Not Satisfactory, Chandler Bid We Don't Know

There are at least three bids for all or part of the foundering Tribune Co. But none of them at this point appears to be too promising.

The next step is for the Tribune board to meet Saturday to consider its next steps. But it may decide to do nothing, or seek more talks and clarification.

I don't think much of the bid of Eli Broad and Ron Burkle to pay a $27 dividend for each outstanding share of Tribune stock and assume a 31% control and leadership of Tribune. It would saddle the Tribune Co. with huge, new debt, and contain no real guarantees against more cost cutting at Tribune-owned newspapers.

This murky offer apparently entails a pledge to leave the headquarters of Tribune in Chicago, an inferior city, and leave Dennis FitzSimons and his axis of stupidity in their present places. This is crazy. It's like leaving a dead Ken Lay in his old post at Enron. FitzSimons and his Los Angeles lackey, David Hiller, should be "out-sourced" to northern Manitoba and left to build their own cabin.

(Chicago boosters are determined to defend the indefensible. They insist their city is up-to-snuff. They particularly accuse me of being irresponsibly negative about Chicago food. A comment below says I am basing this only on having Mexican food at Midway Airport. But this is a false accusation. My Mexican food experience was at a downtown Chicago restaurant that had the poor grace to serve enchiladas filled with potatoes. More recently, I ate in an "Italian restaurant" there that did not serve Italian food. Chicago Asian food has been woeful. I've eaten better in Moscow than I have in Chicago, and while I don't blame all this on the Tribune Co., it is surely the case they are responsible for the poor food at the Cubs' stadium. Chicago, an inferior city? That's a no-brainer. And I've spent, unhappily, a considerable time in Chicago. When I was with Life magazine in the 1960s, I lived there several months, assigned to their Chicago bureau. I was there on numerous political and insurance stories, and attended a reunion there in 2002. I've been there often enough to be able to state authoritatively how lousy and second rate it is. It's not only that in the Tribune, it has a lousy newspaper)..

Any deal that doesn't put the L.A. Times in new hands and preferably bring Dean Baquet back as editor, while kicking Hiller out of town, leaves a lot to be desired.

In short, the Broad/Burkle offer doesn't have a good odor.

The Chandler bid has to be fleshed out. The key question is what would happen to the Times. Also, there is a minority interest in the Chandler offer that has not as yet even been identified.

The other bid is for the 23 TV stations only, and so has little to do with the future of the Times.

We're going to have to wait to learn more. In the meantime, it would be encouraging were FitzSimons and Hiller to disembowel themselves, so others can come forward to make the decisions.


Time, Inc. laid off 289 employees today, and Time announced it is closing its Chicago, Atlanta and Los Angeles bureaus. This is the first time in many years that the magazine will have no full-time reporters in Los Angeles, and shows how the city is being treated badly, and not only by Tribune.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Regarding Time closing bureaus, and laying off 289 people...Is there any other industry besides mass media that intentionally reduces the quality of its product in response to competition and declining market share? Even the Big Three automakers aren't that stupid.

1/18/2007 8:05 PM  
Anonymous John B. Baker said...

Calling Chicago an "inferior city" means one of two things: either you've never been to Chicago, or you're an idiot. It's hard to think of a city that's inferior to Los Angeles, with the possible exception of Hades.

1/18/2007 8:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wouldn't take much stock in what Mr. Reich opines. He complains that the food in Chicago is terrible, but admits he's only had Mexican at Midway Airport.

1/18/2007 10:38 PM  

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