Tribune files for bankruptcy protection

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The publisher of the Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times declared bankruptcy on Monday as the U.S. newspaper industry's unrelenting loss of readers and advertisers claimed its biggest victim yet.

Tribune Co, which owns eight major daily newspapers and several television stations, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection after collapsing under a heavy debt load just a year after real estate mogul Sam Zell took it private.

Like other big U.S. newspapers, Tribune is under pressure from declining advertising revenue and circulation as more people get news online and as companies cut their marketing budgets because of the economy.

"The Tribune Co's financial condition is symptomatic of the ills that plague the newspaper industry," said Jerome Reisman, a bankruptcy attorney with Reisman, Pierez & Reisman.

Tribune's bankruptcy filing is the latest chapter in the unraveling of the leveraged buyout boom which saw many companies bought by private equity firms and other investors ending up with massive debt loads.

Zell loaded up the privately held publisher with about $8 billion in additional debt when he took the company private in a transaction largely financed by company contributions to an employee stock option plan.

Like other big companies which took on heavy debt burdens during the private equity boom, Tribune is now being forced to find a way to cut its borrowings to an amount it can handle.

"This process of deleveraging America, whether financial institutions or Tribune, will be a long, slow and painful process," said Duke University Law School Professor James Cox. "That's what's going to prolong this recession."

Even newspaper publishers which haven't borrowed heavily have been struggling to cope: The New York Times Co is reevaluating its assets while slashing its dividend; media reports say McClatchy Co has approached potential buyers about a sale of the Miami Herald; and The Minneapolis Star-Tribune is restructuring while its owner, private equity firm Avista Capital Partners, has skipped debt payments.

Tribune, which also owns the Baltimore Sun and the Orlando Sentinel, had $7.6 billion in assets and $12.97 billion in debt as of December 8, according to its bankruptcy filing.

Tribune also owns 23 television stations, which are expected to be hit by the typical advertising declines that follow major elections when political spending virtually disappears.

"It has been, to say the least, the perfect storm," Zell said in a memo to employees. "A precipitous decline in revenue and a tough economy have coupled with a credit crisis, making it extremely difficult to support our debt. All of our major advertising categories have been dramatically impacted."

"There's been so much bad news constantly lately, everyone's just shrugging their shoulders," a Tribune newsroom staffer in Chicago said. "It's just one more day of more disappointing news."

Most of the $8.2 billion Zell buyout price was paid for by the pensions of Tribune's 20,000 workers, held in an employee stock ownership plan, or ESOP.

The ESOP structure was designed to reduce Tribune's taxes and it lowered Zell's own price tag to $315 million.

ASSET SALES

The filing does not include Tribune's Chicago Cubs Major League Baseball team or its storied ballpark, Wrigley Field -- both of which Zell has struggled to sell.

At least three groups submitted offers to Tribune last week in the latest round of bidding after receiving more detailed financial data on the Cubs, Wrigley Field and a 25 percent stake in a regional sports TV network.

Analysts have said the assets, which Tribune put on the block in April 2007, could attract bids topping $1 billion.

But the process has been repeatedly delayed and the slumping U.S. economy has led to speculation that final bids could be lower than initially expected.

"The reality is that we -- along with the rest of the country -- have very little visibility on where the economy is headed and how our businesses will perform given the recession," Zell said in the memo.

Tribune has already sold the Newsday newspaper on New York's Long Island to Cablevision Systems Corp.

During the third quarter, Tribune also sold a 10 percent interest in online job site CareerBuilder to Gannett Co Inc for $135 million.

The L.A. Times, the largest paper in the Tribune chain, has drawn steady interest from suitors that include entertainment mogul David Geffen. But Tribune has been reluctant to sell the paper, which still generates a profit.

Tribune said its unsecured creditors include J.P. Morgan Chase & Co's JPMorgan Chase Bank with an $8.57 billion claim under a senior facility, and Merrill Lynch & Co Inc's Merrill Lynch Capital Corp with a $1.6 billion claim under a bridge loan facility.

Its equity holders include a Tribune employee stock ownership plan with 56.52 million shares.

The filing said Tribune had retained Lazard and Alvarez & Marsal as financial advisers, and Sidley Austin and Cole Schotz Meisel, Forman & Leonard as legal counsel.

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As the Senate prepares for former President Trump's second impeachment trial, many are asking whether it's constitutional to try a president after leaving office. Alan Dershowitz, lawyer and host of the of "The Dershow," joined Glenn Beck on the radio program to talk about the legal battles Trump still faces.

Dershowitz said he believes the Senate doesn't have the authority to convict Trump, now that he's a private citizen again, and thus can't use impeachment to bar him from running for office again.

"The Constitution says the purpose of impeachment is to remove somebody. He [Trump] is out of office. There's nothing left to do.
It doesn't say you can impeach him to disqualify him for the future. It says, if you remove him you can then add disqualification, but you can't just impeach somebody to disqualify them," Dershowitz said.

"The Senate can't try ordinary citizens. So once you're an ordinary citizen, you get tried only in the courts, not in the Senate. So it's clearly unconstitutional," he added.

Dershowitz, who served on Trump's legal team during the first impeachment trial, also discussed whether he thinks Trump is legally (or even just ethically) responsible for the Capitol riot earlier this month, and whether those engaging in violence could be considered "domestic terrorists."

Watch the video below to catch more of the conversation:

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A new, shocking CBS News poll shows that the majority of Americans believe they're facing a new enemy: other Americans.

More than two-thirds of poll respondents said they believe democracy in the U.S. is "threatened," and 54% said "other people in America" are the "biggest threat to the American way of life," rather than economic factors, viruses, natural disasters, or foreign actors.

Will it be possible to unite our nation with statistics like that? On "The Glenn Beck Radio Program," Glenn and Stu discussed the poll numbers and what they mean for our future.

Watch the video clip below:

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Countless leaders on the left are now arguing that removing President Donald Trump from office won't be enough — they're now calling for the president's "cult-like" supporters to be "deprogrammed." And it's not just fringe politicians.

During an appearance on "Real Time with Bill Maher" last week, former NBC anchor Katie Couric said, "The question is, how are we going to really almost deprogram these people who have signed up for the cult of Trump."

Former Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and Democratic Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi questioned whether the nation needs "a 9/11-type commission" to determine whether President Trump was colluding with Russian President Vladimir Putin "the day that the insurgents invaded our Capitol." Clinton also made sure to include her favorite "deplorables" in her unsubstantiated conspiracy theory:

"But we now know that not just [Trump] but his enablers, his accomplices, his cult members, have the same disregard for democracy," Clinton said to Pelosi.

Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson and New York Times Magazine's Nikole Hannah-Jones agreed that there is a need for "millions of Americans, almost all white, almost all Republicans" to be deprogrammed and punished, during an MSNBC interview last week.

Now, a story from the Washington Post is also preaching that narrative and even added that we need more restrictions for conservatives on social media and in the broadcast industry.

"So now we have to be deprogrammed? We've heard this over and over and over and over again, for months," said Glenn Beck on the radio program Tuesday. He read through the shocking details of the Washington Post op-ed and discussed the extraordinary dangers of the latest anti-conservative movement in America.

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As calls for censorship and restrictions against conservative voices get louder, Glenn Beck said he feels an "awesome responsibility" to speak, not the words he'd personally like to say, but those he believes the Lord would want him to share.

"It's an awesome responsibility, and one that I am not worthy of," Glenn said. "I want to say ... what He wants me to say. And I have to listen very carefully, because I feel the same way you do. But that will get us nowhere."

Glenn said it's time for Americans who are awake — not woke — to come together, no matter which side of the political aisle you're on, and stand with the truth.

"We are the Alamo, we will stand. But we desperately, desperately need you," Glenn said. "We need the people who are awake — not woke — awake. You may disagree with us. We are your allies, not your enemies. And if you will not stand with us in our hour of need, there will be no one left to stand with you in your hour of need. We must all come together, anyone who is awake."

Watch the video below to hear more from Glenn:

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