Australian-born media tycoon Rupert Murdoch, who bought The Wall Street Journal five years ago, now has his eyes on two more major and venerable American newspapers, the Los Angeles Times and the Chicago Tribune, both papers reported Sunday.
The titles are currently owned by the debt-laden Tribune Co., which is likely to end up in the hands of two investment firms and a bank as part of its plan to exit from bankruptcy, expected soon.
Tribune Co.'s debt holders will become majority owners of the company after it exits bankruptcy, which could happen by year's end. Executives of Murdoch’s News Corp. have had preliminary talks with these debt holders about acquiring the Tribune and the Times, two ranking News Corp. executives and others familiar with the situation said.
There already are ties between the two companies. Regional copies of the Journal are printed on presses at both the L.A. Times and the Chicago Tribune.
And nine of Tribune’s 23 TV stations carry programming from News Corp.'s two broadcast networks, while seven Tribune stations are Fox network affiliates, the Guardian reports.
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Federal Communications Commission rules prevent media companies from owning a newspaper and TV stations in the same market. News Corp. owns two Fox stations in L.A. and two in Chicago. But exceptions have been granted in the past, to both Tribune and News Corp.
A curious feature of such a bid is that Murdoch is contemplating it at a time when News Corp. is supposedly preparing to split into two distinct companies. The proposed breakup, creating separate publishing and entertainment divisions, was designed to appease investors who see little value in the company's newspaper holdings.