A federal bankruptcy judge today approved Tribune Co.‘s plan to emerge from Chapter 11 bankruptcy. After overruling one objection and persuading a creditor to withdraw another, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Kevin Carey said he would sign an order approving the plan after final wording changes were made. Tribune owns 23 television stations and and eight daily newspapers including the Chicago Tribune and Los Angeles Times. The company will now seek Federal Communications Commission approval for the new owners — banks and hedge funds including Oaktree Capital Group, J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. and Angelo Gordon & Co. Without the FCC’s permission and transfer of station broadcast licenses to the new owners, Tribune can’t execute its restructuring plan. Depending on how long that process takes, some believe Tribune could emerge from bankruptcy as early as August. Tribune filed for bankruptcy protection in December 2008.
Many observers expect the company to break apart and sell its assets, including stakes in the Food Network and Career Builder which are estimated to be worth more than $2 million. Tribune has valued its TV stations at $2.9 billion, but its newspapers have plunged to a value of about $623 million. Tribune owes creditors about $13 billion, and its court filings say the company is worth about $7 billion.