Freedom Picks Winning Bidder For California Newspapers

Motorists make their way out of downtown Los Angeles headed east on the Interstate 10 freeway on August 30, 2013 in California, where more Southern California residents are taking Labor Day weekend trips this year compared to in 2012, according to the Automobile Club of Southern California. Some 2.44 million residents have plans for a trip of at least 50 miles from home this Labour Day weekend, with about 1.93 million expected to drive, up 6.2 percent from 1.82 million last year, according to the Auto Club. AFP PHOTO/Frederic J. BROWN (Photo credit should read FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images)
Photograph by Frederic J. Brown — AFP/Getty Images

(Reuters) – Freedom Communications, the bankrupt publisher of two California newspapers, said it would accept a $51.8 million takeover bid from Digital First Media instead of a higher offer from Los Angeles Times owner Tribune Publishing (TPUB).

Freedom filed a brief with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in California on Saturday supporting the sale to Digital. Tribune had offered $56 million. The bankruptcy auction for Freedom’s assets was held on March 16.

The Department of Justice on Thursday filed a lawsuit aimed at blocking Tribune from acquiring papers in nearby Orange and Riverside Counties, saying the acquisition would lessen competition.

Officials at Tribune declined to comment. Freedom officials were not immediately available.

If Tribune acquired Freedom, the company would control 98% of newspaper sales in Orange County and 81% of English-speaking newspaper sales in Riverside, the Justice Department said.

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Freedom publishes the Orange County Register of Santa Ana and the Press-Enterprise of Riverside. Digital has several newspapers and news websites across the United States, according to its website.

“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.

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