Sunday, January 07, 2007

Crunch Time Coming In Deciding Future Of Tribune Co. And L.A. Times

It was reported last week that bids are expected Jan. 17 for parts or all of the Tribune Co. The crunch time may well be coming, therefore, in the protracted drama over the future of the Los Angeles Times, which has been languishing under injurious Tribune control for seven years.

In this context, I hear from someone who is probably a good source that William Steinhart, Jr., a Chandler family representative on the Tribune board, is telling associates that the Chandler family, which controls 20% of Tribune stock, will join one of the billionaire bidders in purchasing the Times, although the family will not directly participate in running the newspaper itself.

Such a plan would avert otherwise serious tax consequences for the family should the sale of the Times be structured in some other way.

Both the Chandler family representatives, and their advisor, Thomas Unterman, have had nothing to say publicly for quite a while about their plans. Including Steinhart, three Chandler family representatives sit on the Tribune board, where they have clashed with the company's CEO, the notoriously inept Dennis FitzSimons.

The heart of the Chicago establishment which controls the Tribune, the five Robert R. McCormick Foundation trustees, hired outside counsel last week as a possible preparation for their role in any unraveling or sale of Tribune.

Among these foundation trustees is David Hiller, the usurping publisher of the L.A. Times, who, naturally, is loyal to the Chicago interests which gave him the Times publishership when Jeffrey Johnson was ousted.

If the Times were sold to a local bidder and the Chandler family, Hiller would probably be immediately ousted from the Times publishership, and it is also possible that Dean Baquet, the editor Hiller fired, would be brought back as Times editor.

I freely acknowledge there is considerable speculation in these reports. I have not talked to Steinhart personally, feeling it would be fruitless to seek any confirmation from him. We're now just going to have to watch and wait, although with increased anticipation. We should know what's going to happen soon.


In a move which is not going to help the Times, the newspaper's press operators voted 140-131 to be represented by a union, the Teamsters. This is a reflection of the unpopularity of Hiller, far beyond his depth in Los Angeles, and could impede a sale of the paper. The press operators, calculating that Tribune will stay in control, may have stabbed themselves in the back.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

You know it is interesting, I heard concerns that “outsiders” from Chicago were running the Los Angeles Times. Now we have another group of “outsiders” representing the pressroom employees. Hummmmmmm, interesting one group of “outsiders” talking to another group of “outsiders” to determine what is best for the “insiders”. Boy.... what a strange world we live in!!!

1/07/2007 3:31 PM  

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