Update: The Koch Brothers respond, sort of. See next page. See also: Who Will Buy the Los Angeles Times?
The latest rumor about the next owner of the L.A. Times, which is for sale, is a doozy. A bombshell. It's a doozy wrapped in a bombshell exploding inside a Drudge siren.
Multiple sources tell L.A. Weekly that Charles and David Koch — the infamous right-wing billionaire brothers — are considering an offer on either the Tribune Co. newspaper group, which includes the L.A. Times, the Chicago Tribune and the Baltimore Sun or the entire Tribune Co., which includes more than 20 stations like WGN and KTLA Channel 5.
Now, these are unverified rumors that should be taken with a grain of salt if not a whole dollop. The Tribune Co. won't comment on any specific offers they've received, although a source there says, “We've gotten a ton of interest. That was one of the reasons for hiring the outside financial advisors, to sift through the unsolicited interest.”
Two weeks ago, Tribune Co. hired Evercore and JP Morgan as financial advisors to vet potential bidders.
The one definite interested party is Austin Beutner, co-founder of Evercore, former Los Angeles Deputy Mayor and one-time mayoral candidate. He says he's leading a group of well-to-do Angelenos that would buy the L.A. Times and run it as a non-profit.
But word on the street is that Tribune Co. is looking to sell the group of Tribune newspapers as a whole. That would set any buyer back at least $600 million or so — a sizable chunk of change, even for investment-wiz Beutner.
That kind of money would rule out most mere mortals.
Enter the Koch Brothers.
One rumor has them interested in buying major portions of Tribune Co., including the Los Angeles Times.
Another rumor, passed along by a member of the L.A. Times Editorial Board, no less, has the Koch Brothers helping to finance a bid by “Papa Doug” Manchester, himself a right-wing multimillionaire who in 2009 bought the San Diego Union Tribune and promptly turned it into a propaganda organ for San Diego development.
Said one L.A. Times editorial writer: “To me, Doug Manchester would be bad enough even without the Koch Brothers.”
Charles and David Koch are each worth around $34 billion, enough to make them the fifth- and sixth-richest men in the world. Together, they run Koch Industries, the second-largest privately held company in the United States, a massive corporation that owns everything from oil and gas pipelines to chemical and fertilizer manufacturers.
The boys don't own any newspapers. But they do own Georgia-Pacific, a pulp and paper company. Could come in handy.
Fun fact: their grandfather, Harry Koch, once ran a weekly newspaper in Texas after emigrating there from the Netherlands.
The Koch Brothers are most famous for spending boatloads of money on Republican and libertarian political candidates and causes, favoring lower taxes, fewer regulations and weakening union influence.
In 2012, they spent more than $2.6 million, according to Mother Jones, and may have spent tens of millions more through the super PAC Americans for Prosperity (they reportedly pledged to spend $60 million).
But the Kochs didn't do so well for all their political campaign-giving in 2012 — in case you hadn't heard, President Obama was easily reelected.
Last month, Politico reported that the brothers Koch were “rebooting” their political operations, replacing the heads and the staffs of various political organizations under their control, including Americans for Prosperity.
Their actual electoral record notwithstanding, Hollywood still insists on seeing the Koch Bothers as shadowy puppet masters aiming to crush the working class and aid corporate America.
It's hard to believe there's a chance that the liberal and Hollywood-adjacent Los Angeles Times might one day be owned by the Koch Brothers.
But then again, nobody ever thought a guy who got filthy rich by suing the government over a parking lot in Boston, Frank McCourt, would ever own and nearly ruin The Dodgers.
Update: The Koch Brothers today refused comment with flourish:
“As an entrepreneurial company with 60,000 employees around the world, we are constantly exploring profitable opportunities in many industries and sectors. So, it is natural that our name would come up in connection with this rumor. We respect the independence of the journalistic institutions referenced in today's news stories, but it is our long-standing policy not to comment on deals or rumors of deals we may or may not be exploring. “