Freedom considering purchase offers

By Wayne Heilman: Freedom Communications

Six months after emerging from U.S. Bankruptcy Court protection, Freedom Communications officials said Thursday they are considering offers to buy its newspapers and television stations.

Irvine, Calif.-based Freedom is the parent company of the Clovis News Journal, Portales News-Tribune and Quay County Sun. Company officials said the offers have come during a review of strategic options, but the company declined to identify the potential buyers, how many bids were received or give any other details, including which properties have drawn interest.

Freedom has hired financial advisers as part of the process, but no recommendations or conclusions have yet emerged from the review, a company spokesman said.

“The Freedom Board of Directors has hired and is working with financial experts in an effort to provide a structured approach to examining various strategic options that are presented to the company,” said Robert Emmers of Sitrick and Co., a public relations agency for Freedom.

“As part of this process, Freedom has been approached by a number of strategic buyers who will need to be further considered and evaluated as part of this larger process.”

Emmers said the review is “a normal process for a company to undertake, especially after emerging from a major restructuring with new owners in place,” and added that Freedom must take the offers “seriously and evaluate them as they arise.”

As part of its bankruptcy, Freedom cut its debts from $770 million to $325 million and turned over control of the company to creditors, including three hedge funds headed by distressed-debt specialist Angelo, Gordon & Co., and lenders. While still in bankruptcy, Freedom sold a group of Arizona newspapers to a Boulder-based media company called 1013 Communications Group for $2 million after saying it would shut down the papers if no buyer was found.

Freedom also owns eight TV stations around the country as well as the Orange County Register in California and about 100 daily and weekly newspapers.

TVNewsCheck, a website that covers the broadcasting industry, reported Wednesday that sales prospectuses have been circulated for both the television stations and newspapers, and that Freedom is seeking between $400 million and $500 million for the TV stations. The site doesn’t mention an asking price for the newspapers. The blog PoynterOnline suggested Freedom may be shedding both its broadcast and newspaper properties to become a digital media company.

Emmers declined to comment on both reports, calling them “idle speculation.”