Tribune Said to Consider Sale of Newsday

NEW YORK (AP) -- Just three months after taking Tribune Co. private, CEO Sam Zell already is considering selling off one of its biggest properties, the Long Island-based newspaper Newsday, according to news reports.

Zell said during the buyout process that he wanted to hold on to all of Tribune's major newspapers, which also include the Los Angeles Times and the Baltimore Sun. But several news reports Friday indicated he was considering a sale or other options for Newsday.

There's already interest. Mortimer B. Zuckerman, a real estate developer who also owns the New York Daily News and U.S. News & World Report, will bid on the paper, according to a person familiar with the situation who asked not to be named because the talks are confidential.

Separately, Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. is considering a joint venture that would combine some business operations of its New York Post and of Newsday, such as printing, the New York Times and Wall Street Journal reported Friday. The Journal is owned by News Corp.

Another New York media company, Cablevision Systems Corp., is also considering a bid for Newsday, the Times and Journal reported. A Cablevision spokeswoman declined to comment, as did a spokesman for News Corp.

Tribune didn't return calls for comment Friday. On Thursday, company representatives declined to comment on an initial report about Murdoch's interest.

A combination of Newsday with Cablevision could make sense since both companies operate primarily in Long Island, a major suburban area outside New York. Cablevision, a major cable TV provider there, also operates a local cable news channel in the area.

As part of an earnings announcement Thursday, Tribune confirmed it had begun reviewing its assets "to determine whether capital can be more effectively redeployed into our core operations" or to reduce debt. Tribune took on $8.2 billion in debt when it went private.

Zell indicated to employees of The Sun last week the company might have to rethink its plans because of tough economic conditions and steeper-than-expected declines in revenues.

Already faltering business conditions for newspapers have worsened more quickly in recent months, with many reporting advertising declines - particularly in areas hard-hit by slumping real estate prices, such as Florida and California.

Tribune reported a $78 million fourth-quarter loss from continuing operations on Thursday, compared with profits of $233 million in the same period a year earlier. Excluding the effect of an extra week in the year-ago period, newspaper advertising revenues fell 9 percent in the period.

Tribune has already indicated it plans to sell the Chicago Cubs baseball team, but no deal has emerged.


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