California billionaires Eli Broad and Ronald Burkle have been granted additional financial information by the Tribune Company, suggesting they might sweeten their offer for the media company. This would throw into doubt the general assumption that the company is about to accept Sam Zell's $8 billion, $33 per share buyout offer. Burkle and Broad, whose earlier offer was turned down, complained that Zell had been granted financial information about the company that was not given to other suitors. It is not yet known whether the two are contemplating a buyout based on an ESOP (employee stock ownership plan), as is Zell's. Zell's plan would buy out the Chandler family, whose agitation over alleged company mismanagement put the company on the block; take the company private; pay a substantial dividend and give employees a majority stake. Burkle and Broad's original $36 per share offer for Tribune did not involve an ESOP, did include a big dividend and offered $500 million in equity against Zell's original $300 million. The Tribune has said it would make a final decision about its future by the end of March, but a new offer from Burkle and Broad could push that date back.
Sources: New York Times
Commentary: Zell's Offer for Tribune Gaining Favor • Bloomberg: Tribune Near Acceptance of Zell's $8 Billion Offer • Will a Buyout Save The Tribune Company?
Stocks/ETFs to watch: The Tribune Co. (TRB). Competitors: Gannett Co. (GCI), The New York Times Co. (NYT), The Washington Post Co. (WPO), The McClatchy Company (MNI)
Conference call transcripts: Q4 2006
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