Tribune Publishing is on the verge of being bought by an investment group while the Tribune-owned Los Angeles Times could be sold off separately to billionaire Eli Broad, according to media mogul Rupert Murdoch.
“Strong word Tribune newspaper group to be bought by big Wall St firm, L.A. Times to go to philanthropist Eli Broad and local group,” the 21st Century Fox president said on Twitter Friday.
Rumors of Broad’s most recent interest in the L.A. Times have been circulating for weeks. Politico named Apollo Global Management as the investment group poised to acquire Tribune’s assets except for the two based in California — the Times and the San Diego Union-Tribune — according to the report.
Politico put the price for Tribune at somewhere in the $650-750 million range, but said Tribune became “unresponsive” after initially being approached by Apollo about the sale a month ago.
Strong word Tribune newspaper group to be bought by big Wall St firm, LA Times to go to philanthropist Eli Broad and local group.
— Rupert Murdoch (@rupertmurdoch) November 27, 2015
Murdoch shot down questions of whether he put in a bid for the ailing Tribune paper.
“No bid. No interest,” he answered to one inquiry.
The rumor of the sale comes amid severe staffing cuts at the paper announced last week, and poor financial performance announced for the third quarter of this year. In all, some 500 staffers were being offered buyouts throughout Tribune, including as many as 80 in the L.A. Times newsroom.
The most recent L.A. exits include five bureau chiefs, from New York to San Diego, along with longtime fashion critic Booth Moore, TV editor Martin Miller, columnist Sandy Banks, veteran food critic S. Irene Virbila and writers in medical, environmental and Op-Ed sections.
The biggest staffing upheaval came in September when publisher Austin Beutner was fired after only a year on the job.
The L.A. Times reported the shake-up itself, citing the paper’s lagging financial performance under Beutner’s leadership, as well as a series of expensive executive hires.
Baltimore Sun publisher Timothy E. Ryan was tapped to replace Beutner, the Times reported Tuesday afternoon.
In May, Tribune Publishing acquired the San Diego Union-Tribune for $85 million, and both operations were put under Beutner’s direction.
Insiders told the Chicago Tribune that “Tribune Publishing was unhappy with financial performance of the two brands, specifically the Los Angeles Times, which represents a third of the company’s revenue.”