Two days after employee buyouts that saw close to 80 longtime Los Angeles Times newsroom staffers and, according to some reports as many as 500 total employees, leaving the paper, Rupert Murdoch has today added fuel to speculation about the LAT’s future. In a tweet earlier this afternoon, Murdoch claims “strong word” that the Tribune Newspaper group is about to be sold, with the Los Angeles Times to be split off and sold to a group of local investors, including Eli Broad.
The LA Times employees bought out on Wednesday include City-County Bureau Chief Rich Connell, deputy chief William Nottingham, and foreign correspondent Carol Williams. At the time, some of us at Deadline speculated internally the breadth and scope of the buyouts suggested the possibility of a sale coming very soon. Murdoch’s tweet suggests such speculation is not unfounded. No official statement from the Los Angeles Times or Tribune has been made.
Murdoch has been interested in purchasing the paper in the past but reportedly was not attempting to do so this year. Eli Broad, meanwhile, expressed interest earlier this year in the paper, as well as the San Diego Union-Tribune, LAT’s sister publication.
Tribune Media acquired the Los Angeles Times in 2000 as part of its purchase of the Times Mirror Company. In 2006, a consortium of local businesspeople including David Geffen attempted to purchase the paper from Tribune. That effort fizzled out however in 2007 when Chicago investor Sam Zell purchased Tribune and took the company public in a complicated (and to some longtime stock-holding LA Times employees, controversial) transaction that eventually sent Tribune into years-long bankruptcy from which it didn’t emerge until December 31, 2012.