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Bids on Freedom Communications Expected Within Weeks

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Bids for all or parts of Irvine-based Freedom Communications Inc. could come as soon as the next few weeks, with a single deal or several expected to follow “not long after that,” according to a report in the Los Angeles Times that cited unnamed executives at several media companies.

Several of the executives said Freedom—which owns the Orange County Register and a roster of other daily and weekly newspapers and TV stations around the country—is likely to sell off properties on a piecemeal basis.

The timeline emerges several months after Freedom announced plans to put its properties on the auction block.

A number of scenarios have drawn speculation since then, including the Register becoming part of a consolidation of two or more Southern California newspapers. That talk has been fueled by overlapping ownership interests among key players.

New York-based Alden Global Capital is part of a consortium of lenders that hold a stake in Freedom.

The private equity firm also owns part of Affiliated Media Inc., the holding company for Denver-based MediaNews Group, publisher of the Los Angeles Daily News, as well as Chicago-based Tribune Co., parent of the Los Angeles Times.

Speculation about a deal between Freedom and MediaNews followed a recent executive shakeup and the appointment of three new board members at the latter company.

MediaNews said the shakeup would “position the company to identify, pursue and execute on strategic consolidation opportunities.”

Both MediaNews and Freedom have recently emerged from bankruptcies that allowed them to shed hundreds of millions of dollars in debt.

Alden became part-owner of both companies after their bankruptcies. It also holds a stake in the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Philadelphia Daily News and part of the Journal Register Co., which publishes the New Haven Register and other newspapers.

An unnamed source recently told the Wall Street Journal that Alden wants to combine some of the newspapers into one company.

MediaNews Group and Freedom already have a business relationship. The Register prints a number of MediaNews Group’s newspapers.

Tribune Co. has also been mentioned as a potential bidder for all or parts of Freedom. Alden Capital is also a shareholder in the company. Tribune’s ongoing bankruptcy reorganization could be a barrier to any deal.

The San Diego Union-Tribune, now controlled by Los Angeles-based investor Platinum Equity, has also been mentioned as a possible bidder for Freedom.

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