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Tribune shareholders’ OK deal, but next?

Lisa Napoli Aug 21, 2007

Tribune shareholders’ OK deal, but next?

Lisa Napoli Aug 21, 2007


Kai Ryssdal: Today, shareholders of the Tribune Company, which owns the [Los Angeles] Times, voted to approve an offer to take the company private. The yes side got 97 percent of the vote. Not too surprising, since the deal will pay them $34 a share. After a 3 percent spike today, Tribune closed at 28 bucks.

Marketplace’s Lisa Napoli reports timing is everything.

Lisa Napoli: It’s been almost a year since Chicago’s Tribune Corporation put itself up for sale. Ad revenues at the troubled media company were tanking and newspaper circulation was going south.

To the rescue came billionaire real-estate mogul Sam Zell. Back in April, the Chicago native cooked up a rescue plan. It meant taking the company private and securing massive loans. What a difference five months can make.

Chris Donnelly: Months ago, when this deal was struck, it was a go-go market.

That’s Chris Donnelly of Standard & Poor’s.

Donnelly: You could finance just about anything, and people tried to.

The enterprising Zell managed to convince four banks to pony up $8 billion worth of loans to launch the complex deal, with another $4 billion needed to complete it.

Investors aren’t so keen about that debt any more. Aside from the obvious credit crunch, they’ve soured on Tribune because an already dire situation for the newspaper business keeps on getting worse.

Newspaper analyst Ken Doctor says operating profit for Tribune has dipped 59 percent since the deal was announced. He wonders:

Ken Doctor: Will the last $4.2 billion in financing be available? And at what rate will it be available when the sale would close four months from now in December?

Today, with part of the deal complete, that seems to be the $12 billion question.

In Los Angeles, I’m Lisa Napoli for Marketplace.

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