Unions Press Oaktree to Prevent L.A. Times Sale to Kochs

Labor groups are putting pressure on Tribune Co.’s largest shareholder to prevent the possible sale of the Los Angeles Times to billionaire brothers David and Charles Koch.

The Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, AFL-CIO plans a protest next week outside the downtown offices of Oaktree Capital Group LLC co-founder Bruce Karsh, who is also chairman of Tribune, owner of the Times. The group seeks to prevent a sale to Wichita, Kansas-based Koch Industries Inc., one of the largest privately held companies in the world. It cited the brothers’ efforts to weaken worker bargaining rights.

“It’s shocking that Oaktree Capital would even consider selling to the Koch brothers,” Maria Elena Durazo, who heads the local federation, said in a statement posted on its website yesterday. “Oaktree manages billions of dollars in public employee pension money and the Kochs have been at the forefront of trying to destroy public employee unions and collective bargaining from Wisconsin to California.”

Karsh, the Kochs and Gary Weitman, a spokesman for Chicago-based Tribune, didn’t immediately respond to messages left after normal business hours yesterday.

Oaktree Capital owns 18.2 million shares of Tribune, or about 23 percent of the outstanding shares as of Dec. 31, according to Bloomberg data.

About one-quarter of Oaktree Capital’s assets come from public employee pension fund investments, the New York Times reported earlier. The newspaper said 10 public-employee unions sent a letter to Oaktree urging it not to sell to the Kochs. The newspaper reported in April that the Kochs were weighing a bid for Tribune’s newspapers, which include the Chicago Tribune, Baltimore Sun and Orlando Sentinel.

The protest is scheduled for noon local time on May 14.

Charles and David Koch rank sixth and seventh on the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, with an estimated net worth of about $45 billion. Their Americans for Prosperity spent $140 million in 2012 political races, urging voters to oppose President Obama and supporting Senate candidates.

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