Less than six months ago, Sam Zell said Tribune Co. had enough cash to carry it through the third quarter of 2009. Now The Wall Street Journal and other outlets are reporting that a bankruptcy filing may occur as soon as this week.
Tribune has hired Lazard Ltd. to advise on its options, including a possible Chapter 11, according to several reports. No one in an official capacity is saying much of anything, and sources familiar with the talks are quoted as saying that bankruptcy is only one of several options.
Tribune still has nearly $1 billion in interest payments due this year and another $512 million payment in June. it was thought that asset sales could keep it afloat while those obligations were met, but the recent market free-fall, combined with Tribune’s 83% fall in operating profit in the third quarter, has changed everything. The Chicago Cubs were supposed to be sold this past spring, but the $1 billion price tag has reportedly become too rich with all the turmoil in the stock market. The company has debt terms that limit its borrowings at the end of the year to nine times its adjusted profits. The ratio stood at 8.3 at the end of the second quarter, the Journal says, and that was before the recent collapse in profits.
The Los Angeles Times says Tribune officials are arguing that it’s pointless for creditors to insist on adherence to debt ratio guidelines and that they should focus instead on just getting paid. In fact, the LAT report quotes one ex-Trib exec saying, “”This might all be posturing and positioning. They could be looking for a new [debt] structure . . . without actually having to take the bankruptcy action.”
BusinessWeek’s Jon Fine combines the Tribune Co. news with E W Scripps’ announcement last week that it was looking to unload The Rocky Mountain News and a report that McClatchy is seeking buyers for the Miami Herald. Fine concludes, “That major companies would consider selling in such a terrible environment speaks volumes as to how impaired an asset a big-city newspaper is.”
If you want to read all about it (literally), the news reports are stacking up like cord wood on Google News.
This entry was posted on Monday, December 8th, 2008 at 8:09 am and is filed under Business News, NewMedia. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.