Its roots are in print journalism, but the Tribune Company has branched out to embrace virtually every aspect of modern media. One of the top newspaper publishers in the US, it owns eight major daily papers, including The Baltimore Sun, the Los Angeles Times and its hometown Chicago Tribune. Tribune also owns 42 TV stations in about 30 markets, cable network WGN America, and a stake in the Food Network. In addition, Tribune owns a number of investments in online media. Real estate tycoon Sam Zell took the company private in 2007; Tribune filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2008. The company finally emerged from the lengthy process in 2012 and in mid-2013 announced plans to spin off its newspaper publishing business.
The company fell victim to a perfect storm of recession and shifting fortunes in the media business. Tribune's newspapers had been experiencing declines in advertising revenue for several years as readers turned to other forms of media for news and information, and those declines were exacerbated by the sharp recession that resulted in weakness in the advertising market. At the same time, Tribune was struggling under the crushing weight of increased debt due to past acquisitions and Zell's $8.2 billion going-private transaction.
In July 2012 a judge approved a plan to transfer ownership of the company to a group of hedge funds and banks led by Los Angeles-based private investment fund Oaktree Capital Group. The ruling cleared the way for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to move forward with the company's application to transfer its broadcast licenses for radio and television to its new owners.
Tribune divides its business into three segments: Broadcasting, Publishing, and Digital. In addition to its flagship newspapers and televisions stations, the company's Tribune Media Services unit is a leading syndicator of news and other content.
In 2013 the company filed paperwork with the SEC for a spinoff of its newspaper publishing operations (Tribune Publishing) to shareholders. The transaction, expected to be complete in the first half of 2014, will allow Tribune Company to focus on its growing television operations and digital properties.
It added 19 television stations in 16 markets to its portfolio in 2013 with a $2.73 billion acquisition of Cincinnati-based Local TV LLC.
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