Digital First Media, the owner of the Los Angeles Daily News, has indicated interest in bidding for the Orange County Register and other assets of bankrupt publishing company Freedom Communications.
That move could set up a three-way bidding war for the Register among Digital First, Freedom Communications insiders and Tribune Publishing, the Chicago-based parent of the Los Angeles Times and San Diego Union Tribune.
Both Tribune and Digital First Media, which also owns the Long Beach Press Telegram, could benefit from adding the territory served by Freedom, which owns the Riverside Press Enterprise, to their existing coverage areas.
The other likely bidder is a group led by Freedom Chief Executive Rich Mirman and Santa Ana developer Mike Harrah.
In a filing submitted to federal Bankruptcy Court last week, attorneys for Digital First signaled the company’s intention to bid by requesting that the court push back the deadline to submit initial bids for Freedom's assets from Friday to Feb. 12.
U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Mark Wallace in Santa Ana on Monday approved the request by moving back the deadline for so-called stalking-horse bids, which set a minimum price for a bankrupt company’s assets. Freedom is scheduled to be auctioned off March 16.
FOR THE RECORD
Jan. 2, 9:49 a.m.: An earlier version of this article stated that Mark Wallace is a U.S. district judge. He is a U.S. Bankruptcy Court judge.
Digital First, a Denver company that owns dozens of newspapers including nine serving the greater Los Angeles area, had been thought to be interested in acquiring Freedom's assets since December when it was revealed in court that the company had offered a loan to help fund Freedom's operations during bankruptcy.
That's a step often taken by firms interested in buying a bankrupt company, but Digital First declined to comment on the move at the time.
Representatives of Digital First did not immediately respond to requests for comment Monday. Alan Martin, an attorney representing Digital First, also declined an interview request after the hearing.
Though Digital First requested the extension, Jeremy Rosenthal, an attorney for Tribune Publishing, said the extra time would be helpful.
In court, he expressed concern that some of the assets held by Freedom's pension plan are "unusual," making it difficult for Tribune to finalize a bid.