IRVINE, Calif. - A family buyout offer for Freedom Communications, parent of the Scottsdale Tribune and the East Valley Tribune, faces competition from several nonmedia investor groups among the 26 bids received late last month, according to a memo to shareholders this week.
The memo, from a committee of board members overseeing the bidding process, said several "highly credible" financial investors have offered to fund a buyout of shareholders who want to cash out. Some of those offers may be "more attractive" than a plan being promoted by a group of shareholders that hopes to retain control of the family-owned company, the memo said.
The committee said it would invite the investment firms with competitive bids to meet with shareholders and take a closer look at Irvine, Calif.-based Freedom.
After deciding to solicit bids in March, the company sent its financial book to 58 interested parties and received 26 offers in the first round of bidding, which ended June 26.
Those offers, for all or parts of Freedom, came from media companies that own newspapers or television stations and from private investment firms whose interest is purely financial.
The list of bidders, whose identities were not disclosed, has been pared down since the first round ended. Many media companies are believed to be interested in Freedom, but only two have openly said so: Gannett Co., publisher of USA Today, and Lee Enterprises, which owns 44 small community newspapers around the country.
Freedom’s management will begin making presentations next week to those who made the first cut, said Alan Bell, Freedom’s CEO.
Freedom, which owns 28 daily newspapers, 37 weeklies and eight television stations, is owned by the descendants of founder Raymond C. Hoiles. The shareholders are divided between those who want to sell some or all of their shares and others who are working to keep family control of the company.
The group that wants to keep Freedom has partnered with two equity investors, the Blackstone Group and Providence Equity Partners.