Monday, April 2, 2007

Zell Buys TribCo., Nuff Said (For Now)

Real estate mogul and value investor Sam Zell seals the deal to acquire the Tribune Co. It's a near $8 billion transaction, at $34 per share. It brings with it a mountain range of debt, even though Sam had to sweeten his original offer to beat out a couple of West Coast rivals.
To ease that burden, TribCo is selling the Chicago Cubs--which should fetch about $850 thousand but not the $1-billion some analysts are predicting. (By the way, the Cubs lost the season opener to the Reds today.)
See post below on the impact of a Zell-lead buyout and the formation of an Employee Stock Ownership Plan.
There's still some hurdles facing this deal --the greatest is attaining FCC approval that will allow the new TribCo. to keep newspapers and TV stations in some of its markets. Those approvals had been grandfathered in and may be reversed with the ownership change.
One final thought: Under this new plan, TribCo. goes back into private ownership. That may be the biggest plus of this entire deal. Right now, Wall Street is the last place a media company wants or needs to be.

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