Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. (NWSA:US) denied it has held talks to acquire the Los Angeles Times or Chicago Tribune once the newspapers’ owner, Tribune Co., emerges from bankruptcy.
“Reports that News Corp. is in discussions with Tribune or the L.A. Times are wholly inaccurate,” Julie Henderson, a spokeswoman for the New York-based media company, said yesterday in an e-mailed statement. The denial encompasses reported talks with Tribune’s creditors, News Corp. said.
The Los Angeles Times and Reuters reported last week that News Corp. executives were in early negotiations with Tribune’s debt holders, who include Los Angeles-based Oaktree Capital Management. (OAKESLI) They will gain control of the Chicago-based company after court supervision ends. Reuters corrected its story, saying its source retracted the information.
Nancy Sullivan, a spokeswoman for the Times, didn’t immediately respond to phone and e-mailed requests for comment placed outside of business hours. Oaktree declined to comment.
News Corp. is preparing to separate its entertainment and publishing businesses, in part to allow the 81-year-old Murdoch to pursue publishing unencumbered. News Corp. was forced to write down its $5.2 billion 2007 acquisition of Dow Jones & Co., owner of The Wall Street Journal, and investors have gone sour on the newspaper business as the Internet eats into advertising and profits.
Murdoch, whose roots in newspapers date back decades, has expressed interest in the Los Angeles Times in the past. He may go shopping for distressed newspapers once News Corp.’s split becomes final next year, according to one person with knowledge of the matter, who wasn’t authorized to speak publicly. No News Corp. executives have reviewed any internal Tribune financial information, said a person with knowledge of the matter.
In August, some Tribune Co. creditors lost their bid to halt the newspaper chain’s plan to exit bankruptcy without first posting a $1.5 billion bond. Tribune owes creditors about $13 billion. The company is valued at more than $7 billion, Tribune said in court papers.
Company officials have said Tribune will be able to exit bankruptcy this year if federal regulators approve the reorganization plan and transfers of its radio and television licenses to proposed new owners.
News Corp., founded by Murdoch, also owns Fox Broadcasting and the Twentieth Century Fox film studio. It publishes about 146 newspapers in Australia, including The Australian, The Daily Telegraph and the Herald Sun, according to its annual report.
In the U.K., the company is embroiled in multiple police investigations for hacking into mobile phones and computers by some of its reporters, as well as the bribing of public officials. U.K. authorities also are considering whether to bring corporate charges against News Corp.’s board for the alleged crimes, the Guardian reported on July 31.
News Corp. shares fell 2 percent to $24.91 in New York trading on Oct. 19. The Class A shares have gained 40 percent this year.
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