Freedom Communications has received a letter of intent to purchase the East Valley Tribune and keep the Pulitzer-Prize winning newspaper and Web site operating, Publisher Julie Moreno said Friday.
Freedom, which is operating under Chapter 11 of the Federal Bankruptcy Code, will seek approval from the bankruptcy judge to complete the sale by the end of this year, she said.
The buyer was not identified.
Moreno said the buyer has indicated that it plans to keep a "substantial" number of Tribune employees.
In a conference call with Tribune employees Friday from Freedom headquarters in Irvine, Calif., Moreno said she has not had any conversations with the buyer about how the business will operate in the future, "but it’s my understanding the intention is to continue to operate the newspaper and Web site."
More information will be announced next week, she said.
Freedom, the parent company of the Tribune, said earlier this month that it planned to close the newspaper and Web site at the end of this year.
In court filings, the company said the Tribune has been unprofitable for the past two years.
Moreno said the Tribune press equipment will be part of the sale, but it might not include the Tribune building and land in downtown Mesa.
The Sun City Daily News-Sun and the Ahwatukee Foothills News, two Freedom-owned papers the California company plans to continue, are not part of the proposed sale, she said.
The Tribune publishes four print editions for Mesa, Chandler, Gilbert and Queen Creek three times a week and posts continually updated news on EastValleyTribune.com.
A top executive of Freedom said Thursday that the company hoped someone would step forward to buy the Tribune newspapers and keep the East Valley publications alive, but so far, no viable offer had come forward.
In a conference call Thursday with Freedom reporters and editors, Mark McEachen, chief financial officer, said the company received an offer for the Tribune before entering Chapter 11 proceedings Sept. 1, but the potential purchaser wanted Freedom to pay him to take over the business.
"We have received inquiries about parts of the company, but most are bottom feeders," he said Thursday. "We continue to get interest (in purchasing the Tribune), but nothing has reached consummation. ... We hope someone makes a good offer."
McEachen said Thursday that the announcement of the closing made on Nov. 2 could be "a good marketing tool" to encourage potential buyers to step forward, "but we remain on track to close by the end of the year."
In April, the Tribune won a Pulitzer Prize, journalism’s top award, for a five-day investigation called "Reasonable Doubt," which took an in-depth look at Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s crime-suppression sweeps targeting illegal immigrants.