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L.A. Times' Parent Company Could Own Daily Papers From Here To San Diego
The parent company of the L.A. Times was the winning bidder for the purchase of the O.C. Register and the Inland Empire's Press-Enterprise, but the federal government has since sued to stop the purchase.Hours after Tribune Publishing—the media company that also owns the San Diego Union-Tribune and the Chicago Tribune—won the bidding for Freedom Communications with an offer of $56 million on Wednesday night, the U.S. Department of Justice filed a civil lawsuit, looking to stop the sale, according to the L.A. Times. Tribune Publishing beat out competitors from Digital First Media (who publish Los Angeles Daily News and Long Beach-Press-Telegram) and an investor group led by the CEO of Freedom Communications
The government had warned Tribune Publishing earlier in the week that it would seek to stop the potential sale, citing antitrust concerns. In a letter to the attorney representing Freedom Communications (.pdf), the Justice Department wrote that the potential sale "poses a serious risk of harming newspaper readers and advertisers in Orange County and Riverside County." If Tribune were to ultimately acquire Freedom, the company would effectively control the major newspapers in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, and San Diego counties.
"Newspapers continue to play an important role in the dissemination of news and information to readers and remain an important vehicle for advertisers," said Assistant Attorney General Bill Baer of the Justice Department's antitrust division.
In response, Tribune has basically said the feds needs to get with the times. "The division is living in a time capsule, with a framework that predates the arrival of iPhones, Google, Facebook, and modern media outlets that are killing the traditional newspaper industry," said Tribune spokeswoman Dana Meyer. Tribune Publishing has said that they will challenge the lawsuit in court.
The Wednesday night auction was not without its own drama. The group led by Freedom Communications CEO Rich Mirman walked out before the auction even started, reports the OC Register, feeling they were unfairly treated.
Freedom Communications filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in November. This potential sale could mark the end of a disastrous ride for the company after it was purchased by Aaron Kushner and Eric Spitz in 2012. Shortly after the purchase, Freedom launched the Los Angeles Register, a new paper to compete against the L.A. Times and Daily News. The L.A. Register lasted only five months.