The biggest media industry bankruptcy ever will end today after four years with Tribune’s chief creditors — Oaktree Capital Management, Angelo, Gordon & Co. and JPMorgan Chase & Co – empowered to run the Chicago based broadcasting and newspaper power. The reorganization values the company at about $4.5B. The new management is expected to look for buyers for its assets which include 23 television stations and major metro dailies such as the Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune. The company will close on a $1.1B senior secured term loan, which will be used to pay off creditors, and a $300M asset based revolving credit facility to fund its operations. It also will have a new board that consists of CEO Eddy Hartenstein, Oaktree’s Bruce Karsh and Ken Liang, former Disney exec Peter Murphy, former Yahoo and News Corp exec Ross Levinsohn, lawyer Craig Jacobson, and former Fox and Discovery exec Peter Liguori. He’s widely believed to be in line to take the top job at Tribune. Today’s release says that the board will meet “in the next several weeks” and Hartenstein “will remain in his current role until that time.” The plan to emerge from bankruptcy ensures that creditors and vendors “will be receiving payment in full—100% recovery of what they are owed,” Hartenstein says. “These long-term relationships are very important to the company and we are pleased to be successfully resolving these obligations.” Tribune ran into trouble after 2007 when real estate …
The FCC’s Media Bureau gave Tribune a permanent waiver so it can continue to own a TV station and newspaper in Chicago, and temporary ones so it can ignore the government’s cross-ownership restrictions in New York, Los Angeles, South Florida and Hartford. The decisions “will enable the company to continue moving forward toward emergence from Chapter 11, a process we expect to complete over the course of the next several weeks,” CEO Eddy Hartenstein says. It also could set a precedent if News Corp — which also owns TV stations in LA and Chicago — decides to buy the Los Angeles Times or Chicago Tribune. Tribune owns 23 TV stations and eight newspapers, and would like to sell some assets to stabilize its finances. Rupert Murdoch is intrigued by the possibility of picking up some major newspapers once News Corp splits its publishing operation off into a separate, publicly traded company.
It’s official. A federal judge today confirmed a plan for Tribune Co. to emerge from Chapter 11 bankruptcy, according to the Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune. Deadline reported last week that Judge Kevin Carey said he would sign an order approving the plan after final wording changes were made and that has now happened, according to the reports. Tribune owns 23 television stations and and eight daily newspapers including the Chicago Tribune and LA Times. The order will allow the Federal Communications Commission to move forward on the company’s application to transfer its TV and radio broadcast licenses to the new owners – a group of senior creditors led by the Los Angeles investment fund Oaktree Capital Management.
A federal bankruptcy judge today approved Tribune Co.‘s plan to emerge from Chapter 11 bankruptcy. After overruling one objection and persuading a creditor to withdraw another, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Kevin Carey said he would sign an order approving the plan after final wording changes were made. Tribune owns 23 television stations and and eight daily newspapers including the Chicago Tribune and Los Angeles Times. The company will now seek Federal Communications Commission approval for the new owners — banks and hedge funds including Oaktree Capital Group, J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. and Angelo Gordon & Co. Without the FCC’s permission and transfer of station broadcast licenses to the new owners, Tribune can’t execute its restructuring plan. Depending on how long that process takes, some believe Tribune could emerge from bankruptcy as early as August. Tribune filed for bankruptcy protection in December 2008.
It’s been nearly three years since real estate magnate Sam Zell drove Tribune to seek bankruptcy protection — the result of his disastrous $8.2B leveraged buyout transactions in 2007. But the broadcasting, publishing and Internet power says its days in the penalty box may soon be over: The company filed a third amended reorganization plan at U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Delaware yesterday that it says has the support of senior unsecured creditors Oaktree Capital Management; Angelo, Gordon & Co; and JPMorgan Chase Bank. The document, released late last night, says that Tribune will ask the court at a conference on Tuesday to hold a December 13 hearing on the proposal, setting it up to be confirmed in February. The media company has “been in bankruptcy too long,” it said in a court filing. Although Tribune owes creditors about $13B, the new proposal says it “incorporates a protocol for resolution of the few remaining disputes.” These disagreements mostly involve how to split $534M owed to junior credit holders including hedge fund Aurelius Capital Management — and Zell. The new plan would let the junior lenders make that decision, which the court could adjust later if it wants. Tribune’s media holdings include the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune, and 23 TV stations.
UPDATE 1:30 PM: I’ve now had time to do some reporting of my own to put perspective on the Wall Street Journal‘s — and this idea of Peter Chernin taking over Tribune Co is a real longshot. Insiders tell me that Chernin has had one meeting with one creditor who asked him about the CEO job. Chernin said no. Then he was asked about the chairman’s job. Chernin said unlikely. ”They asked him if he would keep an open mind. He said OK,” one of my sources says. “He’s had no meetings or discussions whatsoever with any other creditors, the creditors’ committee, with the board, with management, etc. And he is not part of any process now.” I’m told what’s happening is frankly no different than almost every media deal cooking right now where someone comes to Chernin and asks if he would be willing to run the company. My insiders put the odds of Chernin taking over Tribune Co ”way below 20%”. Meanwhile, the best guess is that the timing for change at Tribune Co is probably February-March at the earliest.
SATURDAY 5 AM: I’ve been traveling only to return to some interesting news reports: now Peter Chernin is on the short list to possibly replace Sam Zell as chairman of the Chicago-based Tribune Co when it emerges from bankruptcy soon. Hollywood always knew that the former News Corp No. 2 who’s now the Fox TV and film mega-producer had a second act in …
Is Michael Eisner still interested in the top Tribune job? What will happen to all of the stations? Those are the pressing questions now that Tribune has supposedly found a way out of Chapter 11. The company and many of its creditors announced a settlement after many of the lenders were holding out. Tribune said it will meet the Friday deadline to file a reorganization plan. The publishing and broadcasting company has been in Chapter 11 since December 2008.