Charles and David Koch are very major players in the Tribune Company's sale of some of the biggest newspapers in the country, including the Los Angeles Times and the Chicago Tribune, and according to a new report, they have debated using the media to spread their political message.
The New York Times' Amy Chozick reports that Koch Industries is, in fact, exploring a deal with the Tribune Compnay to buy their package regional of newspapers, including The Los Angeles Times, the Tribune, The Baltimore Sun, The Orlando Sentinel and The Hartford Courant. We first heard about the Kochs potentially buying the papers back in March when L.A. Weekly originally reported their interest.
Of course, they're not the only buyer at the table here. As we've detailed before, Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation has been openly flirting with Tribune Co. for months now about possibly buying the package of papers. The new split-off publishing company will be flush with cash when it launches later this summer, which has led to some speculation they're looking to purchase the papers, and potentially a bidding war with the Kochs. Conflicting reports have said Murdoch is either interested in buying all eight papers, or only the L.A. Times, and Chozick posits Murdoch's interest is only in the Times, for now. A potential strong arm bid from the Koch's could raise his ire and Murdoch's never been one to be bullied around. But Murdoch also has to worry about British phone hacking legal fees which will continue for at least the next two years. On the other side of the political spectrum, there's also the group of primarily Democratic L.A. based investors led by billionaire Eli Broad, L.A. mayoral candidate Austin Beutner, and billionaire Ron Burkle. They've shown interest in buying the L.A. Times, but maybe not the other Tribune papers.
It's those other investors reluctance to claim the whole package of Tribune Co. papers that "could prove [Koch Industries] the most appealing buyer," Chozick writes. Tribune Co. have made no secret about wanting to sell the package of eight papers as a package instead of individually.
Perhaps the most worrisome part of Chozick's report is how the brothers have spoke about making sure "our voice is being heard" at Koch Industry seminars for major Republican and Libertarian luminaries over the last three years. The seminars were private, and the brothers spoke about making sure their political agenda was getting what they perceive to be a fair shake in the papers. (The brother like to think they're covered unfairly in the press right now.) It seems they want to control both the medium and the message for their own political gain. The potential political influence a Koch-wielded Tribune empire would look like this, Chozick explains:
Politically, however, the papers could serve as a broader platform for the Kochs’ laissez-faire ideas. The Los Angeles Times is the fourth-largest paper in the country, and The Tribune is No. 9, and others are in several battleground states, including two of the largest newspapers in Florida, The Orlando Sentinel and The Sun Sentinel in Fort Lauderdale. A deal could include Hoy, the second-largest Spanish-language daily newspaper, which speaks to the pivotal Hispanic demographic.
That's a long arm of influence for the guys who already spent millions upon millions on the 2012 election, but were left with little to show for it. A newspaper industry trumpeting their ideals would certainly help them get out the message.
The other option on the table: Tribune Co. doesn't have to sell the papers if they don't find a satisfactory deal. But with all of these moneyed players at the table, with egos as big as their wallets, that option doesn't seem likely.