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Tribune takeover (subplot: Big business affects you when you least expect it)

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by SF_Express, Mar 29, 2007.

  1. SF_Express

    SF_Express Active Member

    Tomorrow might be a huge day in our business if it's announced that Sam Zell's bid for Tribune is going to be accepted. Tribune would then be taken private, and who knows beyond that? So this thread should be about that generally.

    But I'm reading the story just as a guy who's interested in the business, and it takes me a minute to realize that this could have an effect on me, even though I'm 12 years removed from any involvement with any part of the company. Because I used to work for an old Times Mirror paper and have a modest (couple of hundred bucks a month) pension coming to me eventually. And I'm sure there are quite a few people who frequent this place who are in the same situation.

    Thing about that is that old ESOP program is likely going to be one of the major sources of funding if this deal goes through; there's about $1.76 billion in the plan:


    So unless I'm reading it wrong (and Frank, given your acumen in such things, I'd be interested in your opinion), I'd be a partial owner in the new company, as will all former Times Mirror employees with a pension coming.

    From what I can tell, this would put that pension at risk. Although if you get to the bottom, I guess it could also RISE in value, which it had no chance of doing the way it is now.

    Like I said, this goes well beyond that. Tribune going private would be a huge story in our business. And a lot of people need to pay attention tomorrow; even those who haven't worked for Times-Mirror or Tribune in years.
  2. Bob Cook

    Bob Cook Active Member

    Keep in mind that Zell is the prototypical vulture investor who takes over distressed properties and gussies them up for a big sale. Zell calls himself a "grave dancer." He's going into this to make money, so who knows what he'll try. Or whether it'll work. He's putting up $300 million of his own money, which is small compared to the size of the deal, but it's rare to see someone put up his own cash. Then again, Zell just sold his real estate company for $39 billion.
  3. Frank_Ridgeway

    Frank_Ridgeway Well-Known Member

    No, this is way out of my league. I haven't a clue.

    NYT has a story, too. It calls the ESOP "risky."

  4. SF_Express

    SF_Express Active Member

    My little stake in this is a piddling couple of nickels compared to current employees. Have a lot of friends and former colleagues there and really hope it all works out for them.
  5. fishwrapper

    fishwrapper Active Member

    The ESOP plan is risky for a couple of reasons:

    1-The rise and fall of the stock price affects the relative wealth of employees and former employees. Their pensions and 401k holdings which contain company stock are affected, obviously. The paradigm for this business model is Southwest Airlines.

    2-The "Zell Plan" is riskier for another reason. It puts the company further into debt. Instead of satisfying Wall Street, the Tribune Co. will be satisfying loans. And having a company with one of its main objectives being debt service is always risky.

    So, calling this a "private" takeover or acquisition is quite the misnomer.
  6. Bob Cook

    Bob Cook Active Member

    It's private in the sense the company is being taken private. But it's an Ivan Boesky-classic leveraged buyout, which has become all the rage in various industries these days. Though Zell is hardly the only one coming up with a big debt plan -- didn't Tribune try, or plan to try, borrowing enormous amounts of money for a stock buyback? I believe the debt TribCo was planning was not much less than what Zell is bringing in.
  7. fishwrapper

    fishwrapper Active Member

    If you're referencing the Stock Repurchase Plan: That plan was already executed. One billion dollars. Brings overall debt to two-plus billion dollars. Zell's plan will take the debt over four billion, which is more than half of the worth of the company.
    Having 50% of the company's worth tied up in debt doesn't sound dangerous to you?
  8. Starman

    Starman Well-Known Member

    Re: Tribune takeover (subplot: Big business affects you when you least expect it

    You don't seriously think Zell or any of these other corporate cannibals gives two shits about your pension, do you??

    Other than how he can sink his fangs into it and get his hands on the money, that is. As far the Wall Street vampires are concerned, we can all go work at Wal-Mart when we're 87 years old.
  9. SF_Express

    SF_Express Active Member

    No, not at all. But wasn't there some legislation and passed and signed by Bush late last year or early in 2007 that protected pensions in some way or another?
  10. ondeadline

    ondeadline Active Member

    I know the debt is bad. But at least if the company is private, would it perhaps take a long-term view of things rather than a daily concern about fluctuations in the stock price?
  11. SF_Express

    SF_Express Active Member

    That would be the hope, of course. Unless Sam Zell is looking to make big money out of this.
  12. MileHigh

    MileHigh Moderator Staff Member

    Be wary of private ownership. See Philadelphia. Not saying that Tribune is this bastion of great newspaperdom, but nothing is perfect. No doubt, it's going to be interesting to see how this all plays out. These aren't little papers we're talking about.
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