Freedom to Discuss Register Today

Times Staff Writer

Directors of the media chain that owns the Orange County Register debated the fate of one of the last family-owned media companies in the nation for six hours Wednesday, but decided to put off making a decision until another meeting today.

The 13-member board of Freedom Communications Inc., considered recommendations from an investment bank that would allow some or all shareholders to cash out of the Irvine-based business, which owns 28 daily newspapers, 37 weeklies and eight TV stations. The board was expected to make a recommendation Wednesday, but has decided to take the matter up again today, said a spokeswoman for Freedom.

Investment bank Morgan Stanley, hired by independent board members, had surveyed family members last month on their preferences for the company's future. Bankers gave the board the results of that ballot Wednesday.

Shareholders, almost all family members who have a history of fractious dealings, must approve any recommendation by the board. They are next scheduled to meet April 25 for the company's annual meeting.

Tim Hoiles, grandson of company founder R.C. Hoiles and one of the largest stakeholders, is anxious to move up the process and has called for a special meeting March 24, at which shareholders would vote on a sale or merger.

Hoiles, who holds an 8.6% stake, wants the company or family to buy him out. Fourth-generation shareholders want to keep the company under family control.

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