Rupert Murdoch may join bid for Tribune Co.
Murdoch could join effort by Chandlers

By Katharine Q. Seelye and Geraldine Fabrikant
Published: January 24, 2007

NEW YORK: Yet another media mogul reportedly entered the fray for the Tribune Co. — Rupert Murdoch and his News Corp., whose holdings include Fox News and The New York Post.

Murdoch's goal, according to an associate, is to gain a stake in Newsday, a newspaper on Long Island, New York, that is owned by Tribune, so that he can combine its back-office functions with those of The Post as a way to reduce costs.

The Post, although gaining circulation and now the fifth-largest U.S. daily, loses money.

Media reports Tuesday said that Murdoch had already placed a bid, partnering with the Chandler family, the largest Tribune shareholder. But other indications were that Murdoch was of two minds about getting involved, in part because Newsday was still recovering from a scandal in which executives had inflated circulation figures.

Tribune has already sharply cut costs at Newsday, which has lost about a third of its employees in the past few years.

Still, any expression of interest by Murdoch could quickly turn the lagging auction for Tribune into a higher stakes game.

Tribune executives met during the weekend to consider their options, with three bids on the table: from the Chandlers; from two Los Angeles billionaires, Eli Broad and Ronald Burkle; and from the Carlyle Group, a private equity firm interested in the Tribune television properties.

Waiting in the wings was David Geffen, a Los Angeles mogul, who has expressed interest in The Los Angeles Times.

The company has said that it wanted to sell itself as a whole, but the interest expressed by wealthy individuals and companies might change that. Tribune said Saturday that it might consider acting alone to achieve its goal, which was to increase shareholder value.

Complaints last year by the Chandlers about the sagging share price put the company auction in motion.

The Chandlers are mainly interested in the company's 11 newspapers, which include The Baltimore Sun and The Hartford Courant, and would sell off its 23 television stations.

Murdoch's vast television holdings could complicate any bid by him for the entire Tribune, given various U.S. rules regarding the audience reach of an owner in any single market.

The Financial Times, which first reported that Murdoch had joined the Chandler family bid, said that Murdoch would probably take a minority stake in a consortium owning the Tribune's newspapers, rather than trying to buy control of Newsday.

Newsday, which competes with The Post, has a weekday circulation of about 410,000; The Post's is about 704,000.

A special committee of Tribune directors said last weekend that it was weighing transactions involving third parties, but also was considering steps that the company might take on its own. The company has set a deadline of the end of March to make a decision, and people close to the process said it could take weeks to resolve.

Murdoch's potential ownership of Newsday has long been the subject of speculation.

Alfonse D'Amato, a former U.S. senator, a Republican of New York and a Long Island native, wrote in a column in Newsday in November: "Already the owner of the vigorous New York Post, Murdoch could bring decades of newspaper experience to bear, together with the ability to create a joint operating agreement between the two papers. No other local business consortium would be able to create that kind of savings while offering advertisers the combined reach of The New York Post and Newsday in this very competitive but lucrative market."