About 100 activists rallied in Beverly Hills on Thursday evening to protest a potential sale of the Los Angeles Times and other Tribune Co. newspapers to the politically conservative Koch brothers.
Part of the group -- a collection of environmentalists, union activists, retirees, Times subscribers and a Jewish rabbi -- took their effort on a more than half-mile march to the home of Tribune Chairman Bruce Karsh.
Karsh is president and co-founder of Oaktree Capital Management, a Los Angeles investment firm that is the single largest Tribune owner with nearly 23% of the stock.
"Every great city deserves a great newspaper. Here in Los Angeles, we need the L.A. Times to capture the local diversity of our voices, issues and our stories," said Kathay Feng, executive director of Common Cause. "Honest, credible journalism is one of the most important keys to our democracy."
After an hour at Will Rogers Memorial Park on Sunset Boulevard, about 40 protesters marched along Benedict Canyon Road toward Karsh's home, stopping at one intersection for about 45 minutes to wave signs at passing motorists.
"Bruce Karsh, save our news!" the small crowd chanted as passing cars honked their horns in support and traffic generally slowed to a crawl. "Bruce Karsh, this is no joke! The Times won't go better with Koch!"
Protesters said they were worried that Charles and David Koch, billionaire siblings who have funded conservative issues, might skew the paper's coverage to advance their political interests.
One protester was dressed as an industrialist in a tuxedo coat with fake $100 bills stuffed in his pockets. The numbers on the bills spelled out 9-1-1.
Only a handful of protesters went from the Benedict Canyon Road intersection to Karsh's house to make their statement before departing peacefully.
"We have to stand up and speak from a place of conscience and decency. The L.A. Times is a central voice in our community," Rabbi Jonathan Klein, director of Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice, told the crowd during the rally in the park.
Organizers wanted to put particular pressure on Karsh.
"Bruce Karsh is the dealmaker, and he has the biggest voice," said Lauren Steiner, a homeowner association leader in Beverly Hills who organized the protest.
A spokeswoman for Oaktree declined to comment. The company has said that no sale is imminent and that Tribune had not made a decision on whether to sell The Times or the company's seven other papers.
Two other investment firms, Angelo, Gordon & Co. in Chicago and JPMorgan Chase & Co. in New York, own smaller but significant stakes in the newspaper and broadcasting company.
One Beverly Hills man, who would not provide his name other than to say his first name was Dillon, showed up to support the Koch brothers.
"I saw this as being a very biased protest," the man said. "And I am behind what the Koch brothers stand for, which is more individual responsibility."
Koch Industries Inc., based in Wichita, Kan., is one of the nation's largest privately owned businesses, with interests in energy, fertilizers and building products. The company is a major contributor to political groups that advocate less regulation and smaller government.
"Setting aside for a moment the fact that we don't own the L.A. Times and that this is a protest about pure speculation in the media, we encourage people to learn the truth about Koch Industries," a Koch Industries spokeswoman said.
"We are a diversified U.S.-based manufacturer with nearly 50,000 employees in the U.S. About 30% of our employees are represented by a union," she said.