By paulgillin | December 8, 2008 - 6:06 pm - Posted in Facebook

Well, that was fast.

Over the weekend, reports began to fly that Tribune Co. could soon declare bankruptcy. Company officials were cagey, however, saying that all options were on the table. This afternoon, however, the company declared bankruptcy, putting all of its assets except the Chicago Cubs under court protection. You can see the court documents here, including a painfully long list of creditors. It’s hard to believe that it’s been barely 20 months since Sam Zell told his new employees at the Chicago Tribune that he considered Tribune Co. to be a long-term investment, and that old media still has plenty of profitable life ahead.

What does this mean? In the short-term, not much. Creditors are put on hold while the company reorganizes and tries to pay off some of the $1.5 billion in debt that comes due over the next seven months. Court protection provides Tribune with some leeway to avoid being driving into the ground by its debt service.

However, the company’s future is now effectively out of its hands. Unless the advertising climate improves substantially, the court is likely to authorize asset sales to meet debt obligations. We’d guess that many of the big Tribune titles could end up in local hands or be sold to other media companies. The problem is that there are no healthy media companies left right now and most local investors are going to want to pay pennies on the dollar.

It’s still early, and bankruptcy can be a magic potion for companies in good markets that just need to get themselves aligned. That isn’t the case with Tribune, though. It’s hard to imagine that much good will come out of this latest development.



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  1. December 9, 2008 @ 12:08 am

    Hard to believe how bad this company is. The previous owners must be giddy they unloaded this dump on Zell. All this going on, and they focused on redesigns? It’s comical if it wasn’t so pathetic. This company is the poster child for bad management, post before and after Zell. Some of the best newspapers in the country reduced to a punchline. Sad.

    Posted by Newspaper Fan
  2. December 9, 2008 @ 3:52 am

    I think the silver lining is this:

    Although a declaration of bankruptcy allows the company to survive a little while longer, and to continue publishing its poisonous left-wing propaganda — it is still a step in the right direction.

    With the filing for bankruptcy, we can be encouraged in our hopes that this company, with its nasty newspapers and journalists, will soon be gone forever.

    Posted by Evil Pundit
  3. December 9, 2008 @ 6:32 am

    “Poisonous left-wing propaganda?” Puh-leeze. You cannot paint a company that large and diverse with a partisan brush like that.

    Posted by paulgillin
  4. December 9, 2008 @ 11:52 am

    Didn’t the Chicago Tribune endorse Obama? That was the first Democratic they ever endorsed for the White House, hardly a left-wing newspaper over the years.

    Posted by Newspaper Fan
  5. December 9, 2008 @ 1:43 pm

    […] Tribune Co., which publishes the renowned Chicago Tribune and Los Angeles Times, officially declared bankruptcy today (US time Dec 8), after reports over the weekend had hinted at its financial […]

  6. December 10, 2008 @ 2:54 am

    Why not? It’s true.

    Posted by Evil Pundit
  7. December 10, 2008 @ 3:47 pm

    Newspaper Fan, editorial endorsements are a fig-leaf to cover up a newspaper’s real views.

    The politics and opinion are on the “news” pages, and the propaganda lies in the way stories are “reported” and which stories are chosen.

    Posted by Evil Pundit