Los Angeles Times

The U.S. Justice Department sees “serious” antitrust issues with Tribune Publishing’s bankruptcy bid for The Orange County Register and The Press-Enterprise and would take action to keep any merger from hurting newspaper readers and advertisers in the region, according to letter to Freedom Communications this week. Los Angeles Times is owned by Tribune Publishing.

Jonathan Lansner / Staff Writer
March 15, 2016
Updated: March 16, 2016 – 9:55 a.m.

The U.S. Justice Department sees “serious” antitrust issues with Tribune Publishing’s bankruptcy bid for The Orange County Register and The Press-Enterprise and would take action to keep any merger from hurting local newspaper readers and advertisers, according to a letter to Freedom Communications.

Freedom is selling the two newspapers in a court-supervised auction Wednesday. Tribune, publisher of the Los Angeles Times, San Diego Union-Tribune and other papers, was a bidder for the auction’s “stalking horse” opening bid. Tribune lost out to Digital First Media, publisher of the Los Angeles Daily News, Long Beach-Press-Telegram and other papers.

In a letter this week to Alan Friedman, Freedom’s bankruptcy attorney, Justice Department attorneys provided “our current assessment from a competition perspective” of the bidding for Freedom’s assets.

“We wish to inform you that, based on our review to date, the division believes the acquisition of the Freedom assets by Tribune poses a serious risk of harming newspaper readers and advertisers in Orange County and Riverside County,” wrote William Baer, assistant attorney general in charge of the antitrust division.

“If Freedom selects Tribune as its purchaser, the division will exercise its antitrust law enforcement responsibilities to ensure that the transaction does not deprive newspaper readers and advertisers in these areas of the benefits of competition.”

Freedom attorney Friedman did not return a call seeking comment.

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