Koch Industries Inc., which drew protests earlier this year over speculation that it might buy the Los Angeles Times or other Tribune Co. publications, said it’s no longer interested in bidding for the newspapers.
Melissa Cohlmia, a spokeswoman for the company in Wichita, Kan., confirmed a report Thursday from the Daily Caller saying that Koch Industries wouldn’t be buying any of Tribune’s daily newspapers after conducting a review.
“Koch continues to have an interest in the media business and we’re exploring a broad range of opportunities where we think we can add value,” she said. “In terms of the Tribune, the Daily Caller story is accurate.”
In May, union groups rallied outside the offices of Tribune investor Oaktree Capital, trying to ward off a sale to the company, a closely held business controlled by the billionaire Republican donors Charles and David Koch. At the time, Tribune Chief Executive Peter Liguori said speculation over potential buyers was “premature.”
Two months later, Tribune Co. announced plans to spin off its newspapers into a separate business. The move let the company focus on its TV operations and signaled that it was backing away from seeking an immediate bidder for the papers.
Tribune, which emerged from bankruptcy at the end of 2012, had hired advisers to evaluate interest from newspaper buyers, according to people familiar with the process. The company’s publishing group was valued at about $623 million in its bankruptcy filings last year, $300 million lower than a January 2011 estimate.
The spinoff doesn’t preclude Tribune from selling some or all of its newspapers in the future, a person with knowledge of the company’s thinking said in July. Even so, Koch Industries has lost interest in buying the papers after conducting due diligence, the Daily Caller reported. The company determined that acquiring the publications wasn’t economically viable, the website said.
Labor groups, including the AFL-CIO, had raised concerns about a Koch purchase, citing the Koch brothers’ support for initiatives such as California’s Proposition 32, a failed ballot measure that would have prohibited unions from using payroll deductions for political purposes without permission.
The Kochs had been cited among several potential Tribune buyers.