If Tribune ultimately is going to be sold in pieces, some members of the Chandler family reason that if there is money to be made doing that they might as well be the ones to make it, the family member said.
FOR THE RECORD:
Bidding for Tribune: A Business article Tuesday about the Chandler family's possible interest in purchasing Tribune Co. said the family had formed two partnerships with Tribune. The partnerships were formed by the Chandler family and Times Mirror Co.; Tribune inherited stakes in them when it bought Times Mirror in 2000. —
"There is a great opportunity after these bids came in low for the Chandler trusts to get back into the newspaper business, specifically around the Los Angeles Times property," the family member said.
The board of the Chandler trusts, composed of eight family members, continues to hold a different view: "The sale of the entire company is the best outcome for all stockholders," said a person familiar with their thinking.
The Chandlers' public criticism of Tribune management in June pushed the Chicago-based company into the auction that is going on now.
The family's ownership stake has risen from about 12% earlier this year to 20% in part because of the restructuring of complicated partnerships it had formed with Tribune. The family also holds three of the 11 seats on the company's board.
So far, four preliminary bids have come from private equity companies, acting individually or in groups. In addition, one bid has come from Los Angeles billionaires Eli Broad and Ron Burkle, and another from Gannett Co., the nation's largest newspaper company, people familiar with the process said.
Los Angeles billionaire and music mogul David Geffen also has expressed interest in buying The Times but is not believed to have made a bid.
In addition, Maurice R. "Hank" Greenberg, former chairman of insurance giant American International Group Inc., is considering a bid for Tribune or other newspaper companies, the New York Times reported Monday.
The Chandler family member came forward partly in response to a column that Harry B. Chandler, son of the late former Times Publisher Otis Chandler, wrote in Sunday's edition of the newspaper. In the column, Harry Chandler claimed that most of the extended family had no interest in the future of The Times.
"To say there is no emotional desire to be a part of the newspaper by the extended family is just plain wrong," said the other Chandler, who has been following the contest for Tribune closely.
This person said that buying back The Times was far from a settled point within the large and far-flung family. The two Chandler trusts that hold the Tribune stock and other investments have about 170 beneficiaries. Other family members believe that it is best to sell and get out of the flagging media business as soon as possible.
The family's net worth is unclear, although the Chandler trusts' stake in Tribune alone is worth nearly $1.6 billion.
Industry experts believe that the increased interest in Tribune means that a sale or breakup of the company is near certain. But none of the nonbinding bids received to date has been much above where the stock has traded in recent weeks, people familiar with the bidding said.
Tribune shares closed at $32.46 on Monday, up 43 cents. The recent closing peak was $33.99 on Sept. 22, the day after Tribune announced that it would explore a range of options, including selling all or parts of the company. Besides The Times, Tribune owns the Chicago Tribune, Newsday in New York, the Chicago Cubs baseball club, KTLA-TV Channel 5, eight other newspapers and about two dozen TV stations and a significant stake in the Food Network.
Representatives of Gannett, which owns USA Today, about 90 other daily newspapers and 23 TV stations, met with Tribune management last week and examined some of the company's private financial data, according to a Tribune executive familiar with Gannett's actions, who asked not to be named because he is not authorized to speak for the company.