The dramedy continues to play out in yet another industry shake-up. What will this mean for #Freedom Communications? Whatever will #Orange County do if the 300lb liberal gorilla (Tribune Publishing) takes over editorial of this long-time Libertarian/conservative daily? And, what will become of editor-in-chief, #Rob Curley. Find out next week in another exciting edition of newsical chairs.
If the sale goes through, it would mark an end to more than a half-century of ownership under Freedom Communications and punctuate a rollercoaster saga that began when the company was purchased by greeting card executive Aaron Kushner in 2012 that led to bankruptcy over a three-year span.
And for Tribune Publishing, it would mean further securing its position as the dominant newspaper publisher in Southern California. With the addition of the #OC Register to holdings that include the San Diego Union-Tribune and the #Los Angeles Times, the Chicago-based company would own the three largest newspapers in the region.
But as of Thursday morning, Tribune Publishing’s purchase is not a done deal. The transaction must be greenlit at a Monday bankruptcy court hearing, which the newspaper company says is a matter of routine. However, the U.S. Department of Justice earlier this week warned that a Tribune purchase of the OC Register raises “serious” antitrust issues that would at minimum prompt regulators to take a close and time-consuming look at the deal.
Tribune Publishing is purchasing Freedom’s properties for roughly the same price Kushner paid for the company in 2012, although its assets are markedly different today than they were four years ago. When Kushner bought the company for $50 million, the newspaper still owned its headquarters, which it sold in 2014 to developer Michael Harrah for $27 million. But it also hadn’t yet purchased the Riverside Press-Enterprise, which it acquired for $27 million in 2013.
Tribune Publishing, the newspaper chain whose holdings include the Los Angeles Times and the Chicago Tribune, has agreed to purchase the Orange County Register and its sister newspaper, the Riverside Press-Enterprise, for $56 million. It prevailed in a somewhat fraught three-way bidding contest between Digital First Media, one of the largest national newspaper chains, and a #local group led by Rich Mirman, the CEO of OC Register owner Freedom Communications.