WASHINGTON — Rep. Henry A. Waxman, after a 30-minute meeting with Tribune Co. Chief Executive Peter Liguori, said he still was concerned about the company's plans to spin off the Los Angeles Times and seven other newspapers into a separate unit.
Waxman (D-Beverly Hills) had requested the face-to-face discussion after a meeting last month between his staff and Tribune executives failed to ease his worries that the newspapers would be hobbled financially after the spinoff.
"I expressed to him my concern that they not leave the L.A. Times and the other newspapers with inadequate funding," Waxman said in an interview Thursday. "We discussed how they're handling the pensions and how they're handling the debt."
Waxman said Liguori told him in their meeting Tuesday that Tribune executives "haven't made firm decisions yet."
"He said he too wants to make the L.A. Times and the other newspapers viable, and he had different ways he was looking at that he thought would be helpful," Waxman said. "We're looking to see if it really is going to work."
Liguori said the meeting, which also included Tribune General Counsel Edward Lazarus, was constructive.
"I was pleased to discuss our shared desire to ensure that the Los Angeles Times is well positioned to be a robust business and continue its best-in-class journalism," Liguori said in a statement.
Tribune executives have cooperated with his inquiry, said Waxman, who recently announced that he will retire when his current term expires in January.
Lazarus and Tribune Chief Financial Officer Steven Berns met with Waxman's staff Jan. 15 after the congressman raised questions about the newspaper spinoff in two letters to Liguori.
Tribune filed paperwork with the Securities and Exchange Commission in December as a preliminary step toward spinning off The Times, the Chicago Tribune and six other newspapers as a separate unit to be called Tribune Publishing Co.
Waxman was concerned about provisions calling on the newspaper unit to pay the parent company an undetermined cash dividend, which the SEC filing said would be funded through borrowing.
And he complained that with Tribune retaining ownership of The Times' building in downtown Los Angeles, the newspaper would have to pay rent and would be rendered a "corporate orphan."