Orange County Register

Newspaper boxes outside the Orange County Register in Santa Ana. A $45.5-million bid from Digital First Media for the assets of parent Freedom Communications will be the “stalking horse” bid in an auction Wednesday. (Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times)

Laurence Darmiento
March 13, 2016

Digital First Media, owner of the Los Angeles Daily News, was selected Sunday as the bidder to beat in an auction for the assets of Freedom Communications, the bankrupt owner of the Orange County Register.

Digital First submitted a $45.5-million offer that was chosen as the “stalking-horse” bid by FTI Consulting, a Los Angeles business management firm working with creditors, said Ron Hasse, publisher of Digital First’s Los Angeles News Group.

The offer will set a floor price for the auction to be held Wednesday.

Tribune Publishing, owner of the Los Angeles Times, and an insiders group led by Freedom co-owners Rich Mirman and Eric Spitz, backed by Orange County developer Mike Harrah also have submitted bids for Freedom. They will be allowed to sweeten their offers at that time, if they choose.
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U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Mark S. Wallace has scheduled a March 21 hearing in Santa Ana to approve the sale of Freedom’s assets, which include the Riverside Press-Enterprise. The sale is expected to close by the end of the month.

The bid from Digital First, which owns nine newspapers in Southern California, declined to assume Freedom’s pension obligations.

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