Freedom Communications is entertaining offers from would-be buyers for some of its properties, which include newspapers and TV stations.
The Irvine, Calif.-based company said it is working with financial experts to evaluate several options.
"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," Freedom spokesman Robert Emmers said in an emailed statement. "There are no recommendations or conclusions at this time."
Emmers declined to name the bidders or what properties they expressed interest in owning.
Freedom retained investment bank Moelis & Co to help with the process.
"Everyone who has a holding they want to get rid of is going to be looking at the canary that is the Freedom offering to see if the bird sings," said former Freedom Chief Executive Alan Bell.
Freedom Communications operates more than 90 newspapers and eight TV stations in several states including Florida, North Carolina and Michigan.
It is also the publisher of the Orange County Register, located in one of the most competitive newspaper markets in the United States. The daily is flanked by Tribune Co's Los Angeles Times, MediaNews Group's cluster of Los Angeles-area newspapers, and A.H. Belo's Riverside Press-Enterprise.
In May, Freedom emerged from bankruptcy in a reorganization that wiped out $450 million of debt. A group of investment companies and lenders including Angelo Gordon & Co and JPMorgan Chase assumed ownership.
Freedom's exit from bankruptcy reinforced expectations among media observers for a shakeout of newspaper operators in Southern California.
"I'm not going to comment on idle speculation," said Emmers about the sale of Freedom's newspapers.
Angelo Gordon and JP Morgan are the lead contenders to run Tribune Co after it emerges from its troubled bankruptcy, stoking speculation that the new owners are looking to combine the Los Angeles Times and the Orange County Register.
The papers already have advertising and distribution partnerships in place.
"Everyone believes there could and should be consolidation in Southern California," Robert Decherd, A.H. Belo chief executive, said during a November earnings call. "Is it going to happen for sure? I can't tell you I believe that."
A lot of pieces need to be in place before consolidation can occur including Tribune's exit from Chapter 11 and the clearing of any regulatory hurdles, contends Gabelli & Co analyst Barry Lucas.
"Not only is the jury still out, I don't think it's been impaneled yet," he said.
The industry hasn't seen splashy newspaper deals, like McClatchy's $4.5 billion acquisition of Knight Ridder in 2006, in quite some time.
In more recent years, the market for newspapers has waned. For example, the New York Times Co and Cox Enterprises pulled the Boston Globe and the Austin American-Statesman respectively off the market after lackluster bids.
Freedom's bankruptcy ended the ownership of the Orange County Register by the family of R.C. Hoiles, who purchased the paper in 1935 and is known for his libertarian philosophy.
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