Ο όμιλος Τύπου Tribune, ιδιοκτήτης πολλών σημαντικών αμερικανικών εφημερίδων, όπως η Los Angeles Times και Chicago Tribune, βρίσκεται στα πρόθυρα της παράδοσης του προϋπολογισμού του και μπορεί να τεθεί υπό την επιτήρηση του νόμου για τις χρεοκοπίες εντός των επομένων ημερών, τονίζουν σε δημοσιεύματά τους οι εφημερίδες Wall Street Journal και Times της Νέας Υόρκης.
Ο Όμιλος ήδη έχει προσλάβει την τράπεζα Lazard για να του προσφέρει οικονομικές συμβουλές, καθώς κι έναν νομικό σύμβουλο για να προετοιμάσει το έδαφος ενόψει μίας πιθανούς ακροαματικής διαδικασίας ενώπιον του δικαστηρίου χρεοκοπιών, τονίζεται σε χθεσινά άρθρα στην ιστοσελίδα των δύο εφημερίδων.
Η Tribune, που τον περασμένο χρόνο εξαγοράσθηκε από τον δισεκατομμυριούχο και μεγιστάνα του μεσιτικού τομέα Σαμ Ζελ, ελέγχει επτά εφημερίδες εξόν από τις δύο προαναφερθείσες, όπως η Μπάλτιμορ Σαν, ή η Ορλάντο Σέντινελ. Επίσης ελέγχει πολλά τηλεοπτικά δίκτυα, ενώ είναι ιδιοκτήτης και της ομάδας Μπέιζμπολ Σικάγο Κάμπς.
Σε μεγάλες οικονομικές δυσκολίες, κυρίως εξαιτίας της κάθετης πτώσης (-19%) των διαφημίσεων, η Tribune είχε ανακοινώσει τον Οκτώβριο πως εντός μίας διετίας θα σταματούσε την συνδρομή του στο πρακτορείο Associated Press. Επίσης ο Όμιλος αναζητεί αγοραστή και για τους Καμπς.
Επίσης τον Οκτώβριο, ο Όμιλος είχε ανακοινώσει απώλειες ύψους 124 εκατ. δολαρίων, ενώ ο διευθυντής του Σαμ Ζελ είχε αναφερθεί σ’ «ένα ιδιαίτερα δύσκολο οικονομικό και πιστωτικό κλίμα», ενώ ανέφερε και μείωση 2% στις πωλήσεις των εφημερίδων του.
Tribune Co. is preparing for a possible filing for bankruptcy-court protection as soon as this week, according to people familiar with the matter, in a sign of worsening trouble for the newspaper industry. In recent days, as Chicago-based Tribune continued talks with lenders to restructure its debt, the newspaper-and-television concern hired investment bank Lazard Ltd. as its financial adviser and law firm Sidley Austin to advise the company on a possible trip through Chapter 11 bankruptcy, people familiar with the matter say. A Tribune spokesman said the company doesn’t comment on rumors or speculation. Tribune owns eight major daily newspapers, …
E. Jason Wambsgans/Chicago Tribune, via Associated Press
The newsroom of the Chicago Tribune.
The Tribune Company
, the newspaper chain that owns The Chicago Tribune and The Los Angeles Times, is trying to negotiate new terms with its creditors and has hired advisers for a possible bankruptcy filing, according to people briefed on the matter.
Tribune is in danger of falling below the cash flow required under its agreement with its bondholders, but it is not clear how seriously Tribune is thinking about seeking bankruptcy protection. Analysts and bankruptcy experts say that the hiring of advisers, including Lazard and Sidley Austin, one of the company’s longtime law firms, could be a just-in-case move, or a bargaining tactic. The company would not comment on Sunday.
Tribune went private last December, paying more than $8 billion in a deal that put Samuel Zell, a real estate billionaire, in control of the company. It has struggled since then under the resulting debt, forcing deep cuts at its newspapers. It also sold Newsday to raise cash.
The Tribune Company owns 23 TV stations and 12 newspapers, including two of the eight largest in the country by circulation. As of Sept. 30, The Los Angeles Times had weekday circulation of 739,000 and the Chicago Tribune had 542,000.
Tribune has been trying to sell the Chicago Cubs baseball team; the team’s stadium, Wrigley Field; and the company’s share in a regional cable sports network. Such a deal, which could bring the company more than $1 billion, has been a crucial part of its strategy since last year.
But the sale — originally expected to take place before the last baseball season — has been delayed by several factors, including the tight credit market.
It is not clear how recent federal allegations of insider trading against Mark Cuban, believed to be the highest bidder, could affect the sale.
Rating agencies say Tribune’s short-term problem is not in making payments on its debt. Instead, the company is struggling to comply with a requirement that its main debt from its acquisition of the company not exceed nine times its earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization.
A quarterly test of that compliance is expected at the end of this month. A failure to comply would mean Tribune had technically defaulted, even if it continued to make payments. Technical defaults can sometimes lead to bankruptcy.
Companies in that position usually negotiate new terms with their lenders, often paying higher interest rates in return for less stringent cash-flow requirements. But such negotiations have become more difficult in recent years, as lenders have become more likely to sell pieces of debt to third parties, which must approve any new terms.
Like most newspapers, Tribune’s have suffered double-digit percentage declines in advertising this year, as ads and readers continue to shift to the Internet, and the recession has prompted retailers and other businesses to curtail their ad spending. What makes Tribune’s problems more serious is the heavy debt load it carries as a result of last year’s buyout.
The weak state of newspapers has made some lenders more loath than usual to force bankruptcy, fearing that it could worsen their chance of significant recovery, or at least delay it.
The companies that own The Inquirer and The Daily News in Philadelphia and The Star Tribune in Minneapolis recently suspended debt payments but have not filed for bankruptcy.
As the economy weakens, other lenders have become more aggressive about forcing debtors into bankruptcy when they believe such a move is inevitable, to preserve a company’s valuable cash reserves. Delaying can make it hard to emerge from bankruptcy successfully.