Tribune Co. has hired investment bankers to advise the media company on the potential sale of its newspaper publishing unit.
The company announced that it has retained JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Evercore Partners to assess whether to sell the division that includes the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune and six other daily newspapers.
The bankers will analyze bids from suitors, but their hiring does not necessarily mean that the assets would be sold.
"There is a lot of interest in our newspapers, which we haven't solicited," Gary Weitman, a Tribune spokesman, said in a statement. "Hiring outside financial advisors will help us determine whether that interest is credible, allow us to consider all of our options, and fulfill our fiduciary responsibility to our shareholders and employees."
Tribune hopes to sell the newspaper group intact instead of selling each paper individually, according to a person familiar with the matter.
The Chicago company has a healthy balance sheet and doesn't feel financial pressure to sell the properties, according to the person. It's unclear how long the process could take.
There has been widespread speculation that Tribune would attempt to unload the newspaper business to focus on its more promising television operations. Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. is among the possible bidders for the newspaper assets.
Tribune emerged from its four-year bankruptcy at the end of 2012 and appointed broadcasting veteran Peter Liguori as chief executive in January.
JPMorgan Chase holds an ownership stake in Tribune.
Evercore Partners, a boutique investment bank, also is working for the parent company of the New York Times on its planned divestiture of the Boston Globe.