The fight between Tribune and the Chandler family is really all about the money. Basically, it looks like the Chandlers got a tax-free transaction going into the sale of Times Mirror that later proved to be a $1 billion tax liability. Now that the chips are down for Tribune (and other newspaper and TV companies), the Chandlers are looking for another tax free- or advantageous transaction to get out.
But from where I sit, the questions being raised about Tribune’s overall strategies are mostly a smokescreen. Had the Chandlers remained in the driver’s seat, there is no evidence they would have discouraged the ultimately failed attempts to find broadcast/newspaper synergies. Nor would they have killed the investment in national online verticals that are actually turning out to be strong winners. And have you noticed that no one talks about the changed journalism? It is not a real issue here.
Smokescreen or not, a key question is raised by the possible breakup of Tribune’s properties: Can they thrive without the online infrastructure that Tribune has created, specifically in the form of CareerBuilder, Cars.com, Homescape and ShopLocal? Is it enough to be a “renter” of the verticals, rather than an owner? Online revenues are only five percent or so, and haven’t been considered a key part of the newspapers’ valuation. But they are, by far, the newspapers’ fastest growing sector.