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Tribune Co. Moves Toward Entertainment, Cable TV


The Chicago-based Tribune Company, the corporate owner of the L.A. Times, Chicago Tribune, Baltimore Sun and 23 local TV stations, emerged from bankruptcy yesterday after a messy four-year process.

As NPR's David Folkenflik reports, Tribune's future may look very different from its newsy past.

DAVID FOLKENFLIK, BYLINE: The company's new controlling owners are the investment firms Oaktree and Angelo Gordon, which bought out creditors at a reduced rate, and JPMorgan - the company's chief lender. They are expected to sell the papers when they can and to auction off some of the television stations.

The new board is stocked with Hollywood heavyweights and the former interim CEO of Yahoo - nary a news leader among them.

Business media analyst and consultant Kevin Doctor says that omission is no accident.

KEVIN DOCTOR: You look at this as an old fashioned game of monopoly. There are these brands that people know well.

FOLKENFLIK: Doctor runs the blog, Newsonomics.

DOCTOR: But the question is when they come out of bankruptcy and are owned by financial people, not by publishers or by TV people, what are they worth on the market?

FOLKENFLIK: The eight papers were collectively valued at $623 million dollars - less than it cost to acquire the Philadelphia Inquirer and Philly Daily News six years ago.

Aides to Rupert Murdoch have signaled his interest in the L.A. Times, while Warren Buffett says he'd like to acquire the Allentown Morning Call.

Meanwhile, Tribune's future appears to lie in entertainment and cable television. The board member who is expected to lead the company formerly led Discovery and FX, and under him media may well mean everything but the newspapers that defined Tribune for decades.

DOCTOR: I think it's pretty clear that as Peter Liguori becomes the CEO, that this is a media company. So it may be called the Tribune Company but the Tribune nameplate and it really its reason for being out of the Chicago Tribune and the long history there, will pass into history.

FOLKENFLIK: For now, Tribune has no comment. David Folkenflik, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

David Folkenflik was described by Geraldo Rivera of Fox News as "a really weak-kneed, backstabbing, sweaty-palmed reporter." Others have been kinder. The Columbia Journalism Review, for example, once gave him a "laurel" for reporting that immediately led the U.S. military to institute safety measures for journalists in Baghdad.