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Last Updated: Tuesday, 21 August 2007, 16:30 GMT 17:30 UK
Shareholders back LA Times sale
Sam Zell
Sam Zell sold his company for $36bn last year
Shareholders in the firm that owns the Los Angeles Times newspaper have backed a buyout by a billionaire Sam Zell.

Mr Zell, who sold his real estate firm last year, won an $8.2bn (4.1bn) bidding war for Tribune Corporation and will become its largest shareholder.

About 97% of Tribune investors backed selling the group, which owns 11 daily newspapers and 23 television stations.

Mr Zell believes newspapers will still be valuable assets despite falling ad revenues and a shift to digital media.

Prestige attached

The interest shown in Tribune was surprising given the sector's recent struggles, although newspaper ownership still carries significant prestige and social kudos, analysts said.

As well as the LA Times, Tribune controls top US titles including The Sun in Baltimore and the Chicago Tribune.

Mr Zell beat off fierce competition from businessmen Eli Broad and Ron Burkle for Tribune.

Chicago Tribune vending machine
Los Angeles Times
Chicago Tribune
Baltimore Sun
Orlando Sentinel
Hartford Courant

However, the deal still needs to be given regulatory approval and some analysts have questioned whether it will still go ahead given the current problems in the credit markets that have seen many deals delayed.

For Mr Zell's purchase to go ahead, the Federal Communications Commission must grant a waiver from rules that ban one firm from owning too many newspapers and television stations in the same market.

The US newspaper industry has been suffering from falling sales and advertising revenues in recent years.

Newspaper publishers have struggled to react as classified advertising, the bedrock of their business, has gradually migrated to the internet.

These problems have led to a wave of consolidation in the industry.

Knight Ridder, publisher of the Miami Herald and Philadelphia Inquirer, was bought for $4.5bn last year by rival McClatchy, while Rupert Murdoch recently succeeded with a bid for Wall Street Journal-owner Dow Jones.

Future proof?

Tribune said the deal with Mr Zell would enable it to invest in its long-term future with more certainty.

The company launched a strategic review of its business last year, a move which analysts said would eventually result in the sale of Tribune or its break-up.

The Chicago Cubs baseball team, which Tribune also owns, will be sold off separately.

Following the deal, Mr Zell will control about 40% of the firm's shares, with employees owning a minority stake in the business.

'Bid interest' in LA Times owner
19 Jan 07 |  Business
US property firm bought for $36bn
20 Nov 06 |  Business
Knight Ridder bought for $4.5bn
13 Mar 06 |  Business

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