Investment bank Houlihan Lokey had declined to endorse Sam Zell's $8.2 billion leveraged buyout of Tribune Co, citing the deal would saddle the media conglomerate with too much debt, the Wall Street Journal said, citing people familiar with the matter.

Houlihan Lokey rejected overtures from Tribune around March 2007 to provide a solvency opinion labeling Zell's takeover financially sound, the people told the paper.

Houlihan believed the deal would saddle the newspaper and television company with too much debt, the Journal said.

Last week, the court-appointed examiner investigating Tribune Co's bankruptcy said he found some evidence of dishonesty in the 2007 leveraged buyout of the media company by real estate developer Sam Zell.

In the document summarizing his findings, bankruptcy examiner Kenneth Klee said Tribune did not act forthrightly in getting an independent opinion about the company's solvency.

Tribune had sought the solvency opinion from independent financial advisory firm Valuation Research Corp.

Solvency opinions are sought by company boards or creditors to provide comfort that a company can handle the obligations incurred in a leveraged deal.

Houlihan Lokey and Tribune could not immediately be reached for comment by Reuters outside regular U.S. business hours.

(Reporting by Sakthi Prasad in Bangalore )