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U.S. Sues to Stop Big Newspaper Acquisition

Los AngelesPhotograph by Frederic J. Brown — AFP/Getty Images

Reuters) – The U.S. Department of Justice filed a lawsuit on Thursday aimed at blocking Tribune Publishing, which owns the Los Angeles Times, from acquiring papers in nearby Orange and Riverside Counties, saying the acquisition would lessen competition.

Tribune Publishing (TPUB) had planned to buy bankrupt Freedom Communications. Tribune had said on Thursday that it was paying $56 million for Freedom, which publishes Orange County’s Register and the Press-Enterprise in Riverside County.

The Justice Department said that the Tribune purchase of Freedom would give it 98% of newspaper sales in Orange County and 81 percent of English-speaking newspaper sales in Riverside.

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“If this acquisition is allowed to proceed, newspaper competition will be eliminated and readers and advertisers in Orange and Riverside Counties will suffer,” said Bill Baer, assistant attorney general of the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division, in a statement.

Tribune did not reply to a request for comment on the Justice Department’s lawsuit.