Just three months after taking Tribune Co. private, CEO Sam Zell already is considering selling off one of its biggest properties, the Long Island-based newspaper Newsday, according to news reports.
Zell said during the buyout process that he wanted to hold on to all of Tribune's major newspapers, which also include the Los Angeles Times and the Baltimore Sun. But news reports Friday indicated he was considering a sale or other options for Newsday.
There's already interest. Mortimer Zuckerman, a real estate developer who also owns the New York Daily News and U.S. News & World Report, will bid on the newspaper, according to a person familiar with the situation who asked not to be named because the talks are confidential.
Separately, Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. nws is considering a joint venture that would combine some business operations of its New York Post and Newsday, such as printing, the New York Times and Wall Street Journal both reported Friday. The Journal is owned by News Corp.
Another New York media company, Cablevision Systems, is also considering a bid for Newsday, the Times and Journal reported. A Cablevision spokeswoman declined to comment, as did a spokesman for News Corp.
Tribune didn't return calls for comment Friday. On Thursday, company representatives declined to comment on a report about Murdoch's interest.
A combination of Newsday with Cablevision could make sense since both companies operate primarily in Long Island, a major suburban area outside New York. Cablevision, a major cable TV provider there, also operates a local cable news channel in the area.
As part of an earnings announcement Thursday, Tribune confirmed it had begun reviewing its assets "to determine whether capital can be more effectively redeployed into our core operations" or to reduce debt. Tribune took on $8.2 billion in debt when it went private.
Zell indicated to employees of The Sun last week that the company might have to rethink its plans because of tough economic conditions and steeper-than-expected declines in revenue.
Faltering business conditions for newspapers have worsened more quickly in recent months, with many reporting advertising declines — particularly in areas hard-hit by slumping real estate prices, such as Florida and California.
Tribune on Thursday reported a $78 million fourth-quarter loss from continuing operations, compared with profits of $233 million in the period a year earlier. Excluding the effect of an extra week in the year-ago period, newspaper advertising revenue fell 9% in the period.
Tribune has already indicated it plans to sell the Chicago Cubs baseball team, but no deal has emerged.