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Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Multiple Bidders May Emerge for L.A. Times

In the wake of Austin Beutner’s firing from the L.A. Times and reports that billionaire Eli Broad could reignite his interest in acquiring the beleaguered paper, there are now rumblings that others could be interested as well.

“There are potentially other people involved,” said Mickey Kantor, a former U.S. Commerce Secretary now handling corporate transactions as an attorney at Mayer Brown in downtown Los Angeles.

Kantor declined to disclose the identities of the individuals and whether they would join forces with Broad, the prominent Los Angeles philanthropist, or if they might act independently.

Kantor was one of dozens of Southern California civic leaders, including former Mayors Richard Riordan and Antonio Villaraigosa – and Broad – who urged Chicago’s Tribune Publishing to institute local leadership at the Times in a letter last week.

“I’m having conversations and just trying to talk through some of the broader strategies that might be involved in order to convince Tribune that the Times should be owned and controlled locally,” said Kantor of his role in the effort.

Tribune Publishing rebuffed the group’s entreaty, releasing a statement in response to the letter reaffirming its commitment to the Times and newly appointed publisher Tim Ryan, who joined from the Baltimore Sun.

Earlier this month, the Business Journal reported that Tribune Publishing’s chairman, Eddy Hartenstein, had solicited – and the rest of the directors subsequently rejected – an offer for the Times and Union-Tribune from Broad.

Last week, Crain’s Chicago Business reported that Broad has tried to enlist Oaktree Capital Management co-Chairman Bruce Karsh, whose company owns nearly a fifth of Tribune Publishing Co. stock, into the fight to regain local control of the L.A. Times.

Broad, Beutner and Karsh are reported to be on friendly terms.

Veteran L.A. investment banker Lloyd Greif said he expected Broad to make another move to buy the paper soon, but added it’s unlikely he’ll go it alone.

“I think it would be Eli and Austin for sure,” said Greif, chief executive of Greif & Co. in downtown Los Angeles, noting that Broad would need Beutner’s expertise to run the paper.

Karsh, too, might play a role, he suggested.

“It would not at all surprise me to see Oaktree being involved,” Greif said.

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