Digital First Media to Acquire Orange County Register

A judge blocked Tribune Publishing from purchasing the paper

Update: The Bankruptcy Court for the Central District of California approved Digital First Media as the purchaser of Freedom Communications Inc.

Freedom Communications will sell the Orange County Register to Digital First Media after a judge blocked a $56 million bid by Tribune Publishing, a Freedom attorney said Saturday.

Freedom is the troubled owner of the Orange County Register and Press-Enterprise of Riverside, California.

Freedom will ask a federal bankruptcy judge to confirm and approve the sale to Digital First, according to the Associated Press.

Digital First owns the Los Angeles Daily News and eight other daily papers in the greater Los Angeles area. In total, Digital First Media operates more than 800 multi-platform products include web, mobile, tablet and print.

Freedom attorney William Lobel said in an email that he expectes the deal will close before the end of March. Digital First was the runner-up bidder for Freedom at $45.5 million.

Digital First is a Denver-based company that recently announced it would consolidate a variety of Northern California newspapers into two, with one focused on Oakland and one focused on Silicon Valley.

Last week, the Justice Department filed an antitrust lawsuit to block Tribune Publishing’s proposed acquisition of Freedom’s two California newspapers, including The Orange County Register.

The Justice Department claimed the move would give the Tribune a monopoly over newspaper sales in the region, allowing it to increase subscription prices and ad rates. Tribune already owns the Los Angeles Times, the dominant paper in southern California.