March 17, 2016 Last Updated 5:25 pm

Department of Justice files suit to stop Tribune Publishing takeover of Freedom Communications

Department’s complaint warns that Tribune’s acquisition of the Orange County Register could result in higher prices, while investing less in quality journalism

The Department of Justice filed an antitrust lawsuit seeking a temporary restraining order to prevent the sale of Freedom Communications to Tribune Publishing from proceeding. Tribune won the auction yesterday of Freedom assets which include the Orange County Register and Riverside Press Enterprise. Tribune’s bid was $56 million in cash, though it will not assume the pension liabilities.

OCR-3-17-200“If this acquisition is allowed to proceed, newspaper competition will be eliminated and readers and advertisers in Orange and Riverside Counties will suffer,” said Assistant Attorney General Bill Baer of the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division. “Newspapers continue to play an important role in the dissemination of news and information to readers and remain an important vehicle for advertisers. The Antitrust Division is committed to ensuring that competition in this important industry is protected.”

The problem, as the DOJ sees it, is that Tribune already owns the San Diego Union Tribune and the Los Angeles Times. Tribune picked up the San Diego property in May of last year. The price tag for that deal was $73 million in cash and $12 million in stock.

“Tribune’s acquisition of its most significant competitor would give it a monopoly over newspaper sales in each county and allow it to increase subscription prices, raise advertising rates and invest less to maintain the quality of its newspapers,” the DOJ claims.

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