Yet Another Dose of Tribune Fare

I'm not certain whether I have more difficulty fathoming someone in today's world wanting to acquire a group of newspapers and television stations, or wanting to pick off a baseball team that's about to embark on its 99th consecutive season without a World Series crown. But one or the other attractions -- or perhaps both -- have a group of billionaires lined up to participate in Tribune's (NYSE: TRB  ) future.

It seems that on Thursday, a pair of Los Angeles-based billionaires -- grocery store magnate Ron Burkle and erstwhile homebuilder and real estate investor Eli Broad -- came around again (by letter)with yet another offer to restructure Tribune. That proposal joins another by Chicago real estate investor Sam Zell. Like Zell's proposal, it apparently involves the formations of an employee stock ownership plan (ESOP), given the tax advantages that such a formation would afford.

The most recent Burkle-Broad proposal (they'd made another in January) appears to be valued at about $8.1 billion. It would provide a $34 per share recapitalization effort, and also would have the pair contributing $500 million in cash to the deal. The Zell proposal, which was rendered to Tribune's board following a January deadline set by the company, is based upon $33 a share for Tribune's stock. It carries a total value of approximately $8 billion.

There also have been other indications of interest in individual Tribune properties. For instance, Los Angeles music mogul David Geffen reportedly has offered $2 billion for the company's Los Angeles Times newspaper, and News Corp. (NYSE: NWS  ) CEO Rupert Murdoch has expressed interest in its Newsday newspaper, which is published on Long Island.

Tribune publishes 11 daily newspapers, operates 23 television stations, and owns the Chicago Cubs baseball team, which hasn't claimed a World Series championship since early in the 20th century. And like other publishers, including New York Times (NYSE: NYT  ) , Lee (NYSE: LEE  ) , and McClatchy (NYSE: MNI  ) , Tribune has watched somewhat helplessly in recent years as its circulation and advertising metrics -- and consequently its share price -- have slid steadily. In February, for instance, its total advertising revenues were down 3.4%.

It had been presumed that Tribune's board would announce its chosen direction for the company on Saturday, but with the receipt of a revised offer on Thursday, whether that target still will be met is anyone's guess.

In the meantime, I continue to urge Fools to watch the increasing intrigue surrounding the company, perhaps take in a Cubs game when the 2007 baseball season starts next week, but by all means keep your hard-earned shekels separate from Tribune's shares.

For related Foolishness:

New York Times and Lee are bothMotley Fool Income Investor picks. Find out why when you try the newsletter free for 30 days.

Fool contributor David Lee Smith does not own shares in any of the companies mentioned. He welcomes your questions or comments.   


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