One of the best things about having billionaire media mogul Rupert Murdoch on Twitter is you never know what he is going to say, and in some cases it’s very interesting. We got another example of that Friday, when the News Corp. founder said he had heard that newspaper chain Tribune Publishing Co. (TPUB) is going to be acquired by a Wall Street firm and split into pieces.
Murdoch didn’t say where he got the information he included in his tweet, which was first noticed by Brian Stelter at CNN Money. All he said was that he had heard “strong word” that the newspaper group is about to be bought by an investment firm—and that the Los Angeles Times will be split off and sold to Eli Broad and a group of local investors.
The News Corp. founder also denied any interest in the deal in a reply to a commenter on Twitter, who asked whether he was mad that his bid for the LA Times had been refused. “No bid, no interest,” said Murdoch, who was rumored to have been interested in buying the paper several years ago.
The LA Times has been the focus of a storm of media controversy over the past year. Broad, a retired billionaire who built SunAmerica into an insurance powerhouse and who lives in Los Angeles, made a bid to buy the Times and the San Diego Union-Tribune in September but was rebuffed by owner Tribune Publishing, which also owns the Chicago Tribune and a number of smaller papers.
Broad, who is 82, had also tried to acquire the LA paper in 2013 as part of a consortium that included Austin Beutner, the former first deputy mayor of Los Angeles. Beutner was later made publisher of the Times, and acquired the San Diego Union-Tribune. But after the Broad bid earlier this year was turned down, Beutner was fired by Tribune Publishing, which accused him of poor financial performance at the newspaper.
Industry sources have been speculating for some time that Broad wanted to make another acquisition attempt, with Beutner part of the deal, and was just waiting for the right opportunity. Tribune Publishing’s stock has lost more than half its value in the past year, as the chain’s financial health has deteriorated.
Correction, Nov. 27, 2015: An earlier version of this article misstated Austin Beutner’s former office. He was first deputy mayor in 2011. He ran in and lost the race to be the city’s mayor in 2012.