Tribune Bid to Acquire California Papers on Hold

A federal judge granted a temporary restraining order that blocked the purchase by Tribune Publishing of newspapers the Press Enterprise of Riverside and the Orange County Register.

This move late from Andre Birotte Jr. a U.S. District Judge, comes one day after the Department of Justice in the U.S. requested the order in its antitrust lawsuit versus the purchase by the owner of the Los Angeles Times, which is the most visible newspaper across the region.

In the ruling, Birotte said the U.S. government showed a likelihood of success due to merits of its claim, reported the LA Times.

The Tribune said in its court filing opposing that order on Friday that the restraining order might kill the complete $56 million deal. That would mean Digital First Media the second bidder would be the likely owner.

The request by the government, if granted by the court, effectively would remove Tribune completely from the proceedings with the Bankruptcy Court, said a Tribune statement according to papers in a Los Angeles district court.

Monday there is scheduled a hearing in bankruptcy court and it was not immediately known what the long-term implications would be of the restraining order.

Tribune announced it prevailed at the bankruptcy auction, but the Department of Justice on the same day made a move to prevent that sale, saying it would put Tribune into a position of a monopoly over the newspapers in the region.

If the bankruptcy sale to Tribune moves ahead it would give the business control of Southern California’s four biggest daily newspapers that have up to 1,000 journalists that cover the area and stretches from Los Angeles south to the border of Mexico.

The region has over 18 million people.

In its objections filed, Tribune criticized the Department of Justice for what it called its eleventh hour interest given that the conglomerate was very open regarding its interest during the unfolding of the bankruptcy proceedings.

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