Orange County Register

Bidders interested in acquiring Freedom Communications, the bankrupt owner of the Orange County Register, had until Friday to submit initial offers. An auction is scheduled for next month. (Jae C. Hong / AP)

James Rufus Koren
February 13, 2016

An investor group led by the chief executive of Freedom Communications will not be among the initial bidders for the bankrupt company, in a reversal from a plan first announced in November.

Richard Mirman, chief executive of Freedom, which owns the Orange County Register, said Thursday that his group still intends to bid for Freedom’s assets in an auction to be held next month but that it would not submit a so-called stalking horse bid.

If accepted, a stalking horse bid gives protections — including a payout if another buyer wins at auction — and serves as the opening price in a bankruptcy auction. The deadline to submit those bids was Friday.

With Mirman’s group sitting out for now, Los Angeles Times owner Tribune Publishing is the only party that has confirmed an early bid for Freedom’s assets. Tribune executives would not provide details of the plan.

Executives and attorneys for Digital First Media, which owns the Los Angeles Daily News, did not return calls for comment, but the company has indicated that it planned to make a stalking horse bid. Late last month the company asked for an extension of the deadline. When Freedom filed for bankruptcy Nov. 1, Mirman said the insider group planned to submit a stalking horse bid, but one never materialized.

“After weighing its advantages and drawbacks, we decided not to submit a stalking horse bid,” Mirman said in Thursday’s statement. “We believe our interests are better served in letting the auction determine a fair price, rather than prematurely anticipating the ‘right’ price.”

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