Tribune Judge Grants Approval for Newspapers Chain’s Exit Plan

Tribune Co. won approval for its reorganization plan, the first of two rulings the biggest newspaper publisher in bankruptcy needs to leave court protection.

U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Kevin Carey overruled the remaining, minor objections to the plan and said in an opinion issued yesterday in Wilmington, Delaware, that he would sign an order approving the plan after final wording changes were made.

“The confirmation process has been lengthy and hotly contested in this bankruptcy,” Carey wrote, referring to one of the many disputes that arose during the almost four-year-old case.

Tribune may be able to exit bankruptcy by August, or by the end of the year at the latest, depending on how long it takes the Federal Communications Commission to make a key second ruling, Chief Reorganization Officer Don Liebentritt said last month.

Tribune finished the last major court hearing in its bankruptcy last month.

“We have a great mix of media assets, our businesses are profitable and we continue making progress on executing our digital and mobile strategies,” Chief Executive Officer Eddy Hartenstein told employees in an e-mailed statement yesterday. “There are a lot of exciting challenges ahead.”

The company still needs to win approval from the FCC to transfer its TV and radio licenses to the new owners before it can exit bankruptcy.

Legal Claims

Tribune, based in Chicago, is trying for the second time to win approval of a reorganization plan that settles legal claims against the senior lenders that funded the company’s 2007 buyout, which some creditors said left the television and newspaper company insolvent.

Tribune owes creditors about $13 billion. The company is valued at more than $7 billion, Tribune said in court papers.

The company owns the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune and television and radio stations around the country.

Under the reorganization plan, when Tribune exits bankruptcy, the company will be owned by the lenders who funded its 2007 $8.2 billion buyout.

The case is In re Tribune Co., 08-bk-13141, U.S. Bankruptcy Court, District of Delaware (Wilmington).

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