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O.C. investment fund buys 5% stake in Tribune Publishing

Los Angeles Times

A large shareholder of L.A. Times owner Tribune Publishing has questioned the company’s decision to turn down a buyout offer from Gannett and sell millions of new shares to billionaire Patrick Soon-Shiong.

(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

A California investment fund has taken a 5% stake in Tribune Publishing Co., the owner of the Los Angeles Times, according to a government filing from last week.

Mount Flag Media Investment, based in Dana Point, has acquired more than 1.3 million shares of Tribune Publishing through a series of stock transfers and purchases over the last month and a half.

Friday’s filing said Mount Flag intended to “engage in discussions” with Tribune Publishing’s management and board about “our interest in joining the board, management, strategy and future plans of the company.” Mount Flag is headed by Jordan Spiegel, a Dana Point private equity investor, and Tim Tianwei Zhang, an investor who previously managed JPMorgan’s principal investments in China.

Spiegel said he and Zhang were attracted to Tribune Publishing because of its strong brands and low valuation.

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“It’s been rather punishing for the media stocks and publishing stocks in general,” Spiegel said. “And that’s resulted in what we think is a very attractive price.”

Tribune Publishing’s stock price has lost about two-thirds of its value since last year, when Tribune Co. spun off the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune and eight other daily papers into a stand-alone company. Shares closed Monday at $8.15.

Spiegel said he agrees with Tribune Publishing’s current management strategy. He said the current corporate structure, in which technology and other operations are centralized at the company’s headquarters in Chicago, makes sense.

On Monday, Tribune Publishing announced plans to cut costs through a voluntary employee buyout plan. Tribune Publishing executives said there could be “additional involuntary reductions” after the buyouts.

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chris.kirkham@latimes.com


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