Battle of billionaires still on for control of US publishing giant

The big battle between a trio of American billionaires for control of the Tribune Company – America's second largest publishing conglomerate – is by no means over.

Two of them, Eli Broad and Ron Burkle, both Californians, have indicated they are prepared to make a new offer than would top the one offered by Chicago real-estate developer Sam Zell.

His offer – which topped $8,000 million was accepted in a late-night negotiating session last weekend. But the contract has not yet been formalized. And it still awaits Government approval which could take until the end of the year.

If the Tribune Company, which owns nine major US dailies including the Chicago Tribune, the Los Angeles Times, plus New York's Newsday as well as numerous small-town newspapers, 23 television and radio stations (as well as the Chicago Cubs baseball team) should renege on the deal, the only penalty would be a payment of $25 million to Sam Zell, which some have labelled "small beer" in a deal this big.

One big talking point since the Zell deal was announced is how little of his own money the 65-year–old real estate developer is investing in the deal – only about $315 million. As one Wall Street broker put it: "It's like getting a mansion for a pittance".

Although Zell has denied he intends to break up the company (except for the Chicago Clubs which will be put up for bids at the end of this year's baseball season) there is a suspicion that some of the less well-known papers might ultimately be sold off. One publisher who has his eyes on such a possibility is Rupert Murdoch, who for a long time has hankered after taking over Newsday, a rival to his New York Post which is published in the New York suburb of Long Island.

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