Stuff about LA times in the blogs today - I saw this at the website a vague thing about D.GEFFEN pos



You know the Dreamworks co-owner and record industry mogul.

Geffen Eyes Another Medium: The Times

By James Rainey, Times Staff Writer

He helped build the careers of Joni Mitchell and the Eagles, created a
record company and then joined a couple of other entertainment moguls
to form a movie studio.

Now, could David Geffen really want to own a newspaper — specifically,
the Los Angeles Times?

Three well-known civic figures in Los Angeles said they had heard
Geffen in recent weeks talking about how he would like to take control
of The Times, owned by Tribune Co.

Geffen met with Tribune Chief Executive Dennis J. FitzSimons this
summer to say he was interested in buying the paper.

"We had a meeting at his request, with no disclosed reason in
advance," FitzSimons confirmed in a telephone interview. "At that
point, he indicated his interest in the paper. And I told him it was
not for sale."

FitzSimons said he considered the issue a dead one and that any
additional advances by Geffen would not change his mind. He declined
to provide any other details — including whether Geffen made a
specific offer.

Geffen declined to comment, said a spokesman at the studio he helped
found, DreamWorks SKG.

Ever since Chicago-based Tribune Co. bought the Times in 2000, reports
repeatedly have surfaced about wealthy and powerful Angelenos toying
with the idea of buying the newspaper.

Among those reportedly interested in The Times have been: Eli Broad,
who has fortunes from home building and financial services; Haim
Saban, an entertainment magnate who first scored big with the "Mighty
Morphin Power Rangers"; and Michael Milken, who made a fortune in junk

"People, when they get to that level, they always think they can do it
better," said one city power player who spoke on condition of
anonymity because he said his conversations with Geffen were supposed
to be confidential. "I think I could do a lot better with the L.A.
Times too."

This businessman said the DreamWorks executive's interest in The Times
had persisted, even after FitzSimons rejected his overture during a
meeting in Los Angeles.

"He has reiterated his interest to me. I believe him," the business
leader said. "It's not just something [Geffen] said and then is going
to move on to something else."

Since Tribune bought the newspaper five years ago, The Times has
flourished journalistically, winning 13 Pulitzer Prizes, but stumbled
financially, with daily circulation falling from 1,018,000 to 902,000
last year.

The national economy's slow recovery from recession has dragged down
advertising sales at The Times, the biggest property in the Tribune
empire. Total revenue at the Los Angeles paper peaked at $1.14 billion
in 1999 at the height of the technology boom, but has since remained
relatively flat, coming in at $1.07 billion last year, according to
internal company documents.

Although The Times' revenue has been stagnant, the paper is still
highly profitable, though it does not disclose its actual earnings.

Tribune paid about $8 billion for the Times and the rest of Times
Mirror Co., which included a mix of newspapers, magazines and other
publishing enterprises.

Based on its 2004 profit and the price-to-earnings ratios in recent
newspaper deals, The Times would be valued at more than $3 billion.

But the price a potential buyer might have to pay is complicated by a
number of factors, including a still unresolved dispute over whether
media companies such as Tribune can own newspapers and television
stations in the same markets.

In Los Angeles, the company owns both The Times and KTLA-TV Channel 5.

The Supreme Court announced in June that it would not rule on the
legality of such cross ownership — returning the question to the
Federal Communications Commission to settle the matter.

Tribune has expressed confidence that it will win relief from monopoly
regulations so it can own television stations and newspapers in the
same cities. A failure to do so could force the sale of some of those

So why would Geffen, whose net worth is estimated by Forbes magazine
at $4.4 billion, want to plunge into an industry that is struggling to
maintain its footing as many readers shift to cable television and the

It's possible that the 62-year-old businessman could be looking for a
new venture. Entertainment industry executives have been talking for
weeks about the possibility that NBC Universal might buy DreamWorks'
live-action movie division. And Geffen has talked in the past about
being less than enamored of the studio business.

When he spoke about buying The Times at a party this summer, Geffen
explained that he wanted "local ownership" of the paper, said one
guest who heard him. "It was the same thing that has been said by
other people before — that local ownership of papers is better."

According to another civic figure, who also spoke on condition of
anonymity, Geffen said on another occasion that he would be a generous
publisher because he wouldn't insist on making huge profits and would
spend money to improve The Times' editorial product.

The businessman who spoke to Geffen said the music and movie mogul
also talked of another motivation: correcting what he sees as the
unfairness that the newspaper's news and editorial pages have
demonstrated toward him and others.

Among Times articles that might have annoyed the entertainment mogul
were a July editorial that called DreamWorks a failure and columns by
California section columnist Steve Lopez that chastised Geffen for
failing to open a public access way next to his home on Carbon Beach
in Malibu. (The path opened this spring after a protracted fight with
the California Coastal Commission.)

Geffen is apparently not the only business person who maintains an
interest in The Times. Asked about Geffen's possible bid, one of his
fellow magnates acknowledged making an inquiry with Tribune several
years ago that was rebuffed.

"I would love, love, love to buy it," the magnate said, commenting via
e-mail on the condition of anonymity.

One deal maker who knows several of the men who have shown an interest
in The Times said such talk did not surprise him.

But he added: "I haven't heard about anyone who has hired advisors to
work the numbers and work the structure, to try to make a deal really


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