No one still knows anything about the future of the Los Angeles Times. But Hollywood will remember Frank Biondi, the ex-Viacom and Universal mogul who it turns out is helping advise the Broad / Burkle duo. (Biondi’s Big Media bonafides also aided Carl Icahn in his attack on Time Warner.) With Tribune Co. bids due Wednesday and the auction set to end this week, The New York Times publishes tomorrow this front-page piece: “They seem an unlikely pair: Eli Broad, the straight-talking billionaire whose expansive art collection and philanthropic efforts to revitalize downtown Los Angeles have put him happily in the public eye, and Ron Burkle, the supermarket mogul, Democratic fundraiser and FOB (friend of Bill Clinton) who tries — usually unsuccessfully — to avoid publicity. This week, the two men will decide whether their unlikely partnership should go forward with a serious bid for the Tribune Co.” There’s also a business section story. Says the NYT: “You could make the case that trying to sell now is like selling condos in Miami,” said a Tribune investor who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he did not want to criticize management. “Nobody wants to bid now because everyone thinks the price will be lower next week.” Broad/Burkle only would bid to return Chicago puppet Los Angeles Times to local ownership. And what about David Geffen’s chances after offering $2 bil just for the LA Times? The NYT bears out my own reporting that “several reporters have said privately that they prefer the idea of [David] Geffen as the ultimate owner.” Meanwhile, today, the Los Angeles Times weighed in about the frustration of Tribune’s largest stockholders, the Chandler family, with 20% of the company’s shares. LAT reports that “the most consistent interest in a deal has been expressed by a group composed of three private equity firms — Madison Dearborn Partners of Chicago, Apollo Management of New York and Providence Equity Partners of Rhode Island. The consortium has long been viewed as a contender for Tribune because of Madison Dearborn’s Chicago roots and its reported interest in hometown assets such as the Cubs and WGN-TV.” Madison Dearborn and Providence Equity have media experience: they joined with three other investment firms last year in the $12.3-billion proposed purchase of Univision. Providence also owns a piece of Freedom Communications Inc., which publishes the Orange County Register. “But the holdings also could become a stumbling block because of federal regulations limiting companies from owning too many media properties in a single locale,” the LAT conjectured.
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