Tribune Publishing Co.’s board has unanimously rejected a takeover from rival publisher Gannett Co. Inc., saying its bid of $815 million undervalues the company, which owns the Los Angeles Times.
The deal, proposed last month, would have paid $12.25 per share for the Chicago-based company, plus several million in debt. Tribune shares are currently trading at $11.02.
Tribune Chief Executive Justin Dearborn called Gannett’s bid “opportunistic” in a press release and said it would not be a “basis for further discussion.”
The news came on the heels that Tribune took a loss of $6.5 million in the first quarter, down from earnings of $2.5 million in the first quarter last year. Shares dropped 22 cents in value, compared with earnings of 10 cents a share in the first quarter last year.
Dearborn, who was tapped to join Tribune in February by its new chairman, Chicago technology executive Michael Ferro, sounded an optimistic tone.
“We are at the very early stages of executing our clear plan to transform Tribune Publishing by increasing monetization of our important brands, capitalizing on the global potential of the LA Times, and significantly accelerating our conversion of content to revenue through an enhanced digital strategy,” he said in a statement.
Speaking in a conference call, Dearborn reportedly said Tribune plans to add several foreign bureaus to the Los Angeles Times, its biggest newspaper. They would give the Times a presence in “entertainment-oriented” cities like Hong Kong, Seoul, Mexico City, and Mumbai. The Times lost about 80 high-ranking staffers to buyouts at the end of last year in a drastic cost-cutting measure. It had already cut several overseas bureaus in the years since Sam Zell’s controversial takeover in 2007.
Gannett, based in McLean, Va., fired back against Tribune, with its chairman John Jeffry Louis saying in a statement that Tribune had “never intended to engage with us.” The statement also pointed out that Dearborn and Ferro’s shares were issued at $8.50 a share. Tribune stock initially traded close to $25 a share in 2014, when the company was spun off from Tribune Media.
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