WASHINGTON — Rep. Henry Waxman said a meeting between his staff and Tribune Co. executives did not ease his concerns about the fate of the Los Angeles Times once the company spins off its newspaper operations.
The Democrat from Los Angeles also requested a sit-down with Tribune Chief Executive Peter Liguori.
"They described what they were doing as in the best interest of their shareholders," Waxman said Wednesday in an interview about the meeting with Tribune Chief Financial Officer Steven Berns and General Counsel Edward Lazarus.
"My major concern, however, is the best interests of the community to have a viable newspaper in L.A. and other places," Waxman said.
He did not attend the meeting, which lasted more than an hour and included several members of Waxman's staff on the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
In a statement, Waxman said he intended "to continue my inquiry and will be seeking a personal meeting" with Liguori.
Tribune Co. spokesman Gary Weitman said Liguori was "certainly willing to meet with the congressman whenever it is convenient."
"We share the congressman's commitment to the Los Angeles Times and appreciated the opportunity to meet with his staff," Weitman said. "As we shared in the meeting, Tribune Publishing is on strong financial footing and well-positioned for continued success as a stand-alone business."
Tribune Co. filed paperwork last month with the Securities and Exchange Commission as a preliminary step toward spinning off The Times, the Chicago Tribune and six other newspapers as a separate unit called Tribune Publishing Co.
According to the filing, the newspaper unit would pay the parent company an undetermined cash dividend, which would be funded through borrowing.
Waxman requested the meeting between his staff and Tribune Co. executives in a Dec. 19 letter to Liguori.
In a follow-up letter Jan. 6, Waxman told Liguori that the newspaper unit "could potentially be forced to borrow several hundred million dollars to pay this unnecessary dividend."
Waxman also complained that Tribune Co. would retain ownership of The Times' building, forcing the newspaper to pay rent to stay there.
"These actions make it appear as if the Tribune Co. is looting the Los Angeles Times and other newspapers before the spinoff," Waxman wrote.