Zell/Trib Exclusive: Geffen Not Out Of This

There’s a lot to say about Tribune Co.’s sale to Sam Zell. But, first, I want to report that Hollywood mogul David Geffen is by no means out of this. I touched base today with sources who tell me that Geffen is still going to try for the Los Angeles Times and return it to local control and status as a must-read. I hear that Geffen and Zell are friends. They came to know each other in Malibu, where both billionaires have their de rigeur beach houses. Geffen is heaping praise on Zell in conversations with his insiders: How Sam is a straight-shooter and an honest guy. How Sam wants to win more than any other person Geffen has met in his life. How Sam isn’t going to interfere in the newspapers. But, most importantly, I’m told that Geffen has been talking to Zell about running the Los Angeles Times as some kind of joint venture with him. The problem with an outright purchase of the paper is the same thing that stopped Geffen and Tribune Co. before: the awful tax consequences. And now that Tribune will become a Sub Chapter S Corporation, even more problems exist to hinder an outright sale of the LA Times. (Then again, stranger things have happened.) But a joint venture would circumvent all that, I’m told. Geffen could buy 50% of the Los Angeles Times from Zell for $1 billion. That figure makes sense since Geffen had already offered Tribune Co. $2 bil for the media outlet. In return for the investment, Geffen would get to operate the paper. Remember that, for a long time now, Geffen has been planning what changes he’d make on Spring Street. I’ve previously reported that he’ll pour money into more hires. He plans to staff — more like stuff — the paper with name writers and journalism stars. (Of course, he’ll raid The New York Times, where Frank Rich and his wife, Alex Witchel, are his good friends and occasional overnight guests. So is Maureen Dowd. So are a lot of literati like Nora Ephron and Nick Pileggi. And don’t forget Arianna Huffington.) He’ll demand quality. He’ll ratchet up the Web site. He’ll figure out a way to bring in Latinos as readers. He’ll overhaul what he thinks are the boring, badly written, inconsequential and pedestrian editorial and opinion sections. He wants the paper to be read and talked about. If Geffen doesn’t come in, then the LA Times will stay under present Trib management — and that’s the worst situation possible for the paper’s future content. Here’s a list of my previous postings about Geffen and the LAT:

This article was printed from https://deadline.com/2007/04/zelltrib-geffen-is-by-no-means-out-of-this-1796/