Tribune Publishing, the owner of large U.S. newspapers including the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune and Baltimore Sun, was the top bidder for Freedom Communications, owner of the Southern California papers the Orange County Register and Riverside Press-Enterprise.
But the Los Angeles Times reports that the $56 million purchase is being opposed by the U.S. Department of Justice, which has raised antitrust concerns. Tribune, which also owns the San Diego Union-Tribune, is seeking to expand its reach in Southern California.
The purchase must be approved at a hearing in bankruptcy court on Monday. But soon after Tribune Publishing Chief Executive Justin Dearborn announced the successful bid, “the Department of Justice made good on early warnings that it would intervene if Tribune was named the winner of the auction,” the Times reports. “It filed a civil lawsuit seeking a temporary restraining order preventing the sale from proceeding.”
The report quotes Assistant Attorney General Bill Baer of the antitrust division saying: “If this acquisition is allowed to proceed, newspaper competition will be eliminated and readers and advertisers in Orange and Riverside Counties will suffer. Newspapers continue to play an important role in the dissemination of news and information to readers and remain an important vehicle for advertisers.”