Tribune Co. remained silent about the results of the bidding for the company or its two primary units, newspapers and broadcast, as the Wednesday deadline for submitting proposals passed. No announcement was made and none was expected, but the widespread view was that no premium bid had been made.
CHICAGO (AP) — Tribune Co. directors prepared to deliberate over the struggling media company’s next step as a much-anticipated bidding period for its assets came to an anticlimactic close.
Tribune remained silent about the results of the bidding for the company or its two primary units, newspapers and broadcast, as the Wednesday deadline for submitting proposals passed.
No announcement was made and none was expected, but the widespread view of those watching the review process closely was that no premium bid had been made.
The Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times, New York Times and Wall Street Journal reported on their Web sites late Wednesday that varying proposals were submitted, but none sought a buyout.
”We’re not going to say anything regarding the details of the process or what the submissions have been,” company spokesman Gary Weitman said earlier.
That leaves the Chicago-based company’s outlook as murky as it was last June when the Chandler family, then Tribune’s second-largest shareholder, forced the company to put itself up for sale by accusing it of a series of strategic failures and calling for its breakup.
Despite initial hopes the so-called auction might draw a bid from a deep-pocketed private equity firm or another media giant, preliminary bids were weak and the deadline was extended by two months.
The Chandlers, whose stake has risen to 20 percent, had been thought to be the likeliest party to make a last-minute offer for the company. But the Los Angeles Times, which the family formerly owned, reported Wednesday that they were leaning against bidding. A spokeswoman for the Chandler Trusts declined comment.
The newspapers, all citing unnamed people familiar with the situation, reported that the Chandler family may have drawn up a last-ditch effort to save its stake.
The possible proposal would have the Chandlers and private-equity partners buy Tribune’s newspapers while spinning off its TV stations. The Chandlers envision holding 51 percent of the newspapers, while partners would hold the remainder.
Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Times, New York Times and the Journal also reported that Southern California billionaires Eli Broad and Ron Burkle offered a plan that would put $500 million into the company, along with a debt package that would allow a dividend payment to shareholders. In exchange, Broad and Burkle would get about a 30 percent interest in Tribune and seats on the board.
Messages left late Wednesday for representatives of Broad and Burkle were not returned.
Chicago investment firm Madison Dearborn Partners, which had reportedly tried to bring together various stakeholders to make an offer, also did not comment, but the Los Angeles Times reported that people close to the firm said the consortium decided not to bid after examining Tribune’s books.
Tribune’s stated timetable for a decision on its direction remains sometime between now and the end of March.
Weitman said the independent board committee that was appointed in September to come up with a course of action to improve a sagging stock price will evaluate submitted proposals and make a recommendation to the full board. The board then expects to announce a decision sometime in the first quarter, he said.
Analysts continued to maintain that any offer would fail to be significantly above the current stock price, leaving the entire company’s sale unlikely. The Journal and the New York Times reported that the Broad and Burkle deal effectively valued Tribune at $34 per share.
Tribune shares slipped to a four-month low before the deadline, reflecting Wall Street’s confidence that no deal is near. The stock declined 18 cents to $30.34 on the New York Stock Exchange after dropping as low as $30.15, the lowest since last Sept. 12.
Tribune holdings include the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune and nine other daily newspapers; 23 television stations; Internet ventures; the Chicago Cubs baseball team, and sizable stakes in the Food Network and the CareerBuilder online classified advertising venture.