FitzSimons: Tribune Tender Offer on Track

Jun 21, 2006  •  Post A Comment

The Tribune Co. is set to close its tender offer to buy back 25 percent of its shares by a self-imposed June 26 deadline, Dennis FitzSimons, the company’s chairman, president and CEO, said at a newspaper convention Tuesday in New York.

The tender offer goes against the wishes of Tribune board members aligned with the Chandler family trusts, the company’s second-largest shareholders. Last week, the Chandlers, who joined Tribune’s board in 2000 after the company purchased the Chandler-run Times Mirror Co., issued a letter to the board criticizing the tender offer. The letter also suggested Tribune sell off its TV assets.

In his first public statement since the letter was sent, Mr. FitzSimons noted the changes suggested by the Chandlers “primarily benefited the Chandler Trusts at the expense of other shareholders.”

As part of the tender, Mr. FitzSimons said the company will generate $200 million in expense savings over the next two years and will sell off a total of $500 million in noncore assets.

Tribune recently sold off WATL-TV, its station in Atlanta, for $180 million, and on Monday the company announced it had sold WEWB-TV, its Albany, N.Y., station, to Freedom Communications for $17 million.

“This was a station we acquired back in 1999 primarily to improve distribution for The WB,” Mr. FitzSimons said. “Now that we are not a part owner of the network, and because Albany is DMA No. 55, smaller than what we’re used to operating in, it made sense to sell. Other sales will follow, and may include other noncore broadcasting and publishing businesses as well as real estate and securities held for investment.”