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Tribune Co. Hires Bankers to Sell Newspapers: Sources

Tribune Co., the media company that recently exited a four-year bankruptcy, hired bankers at JPMorgan Chase and Evercore Partners to sell its flagship newspaper properties, according to two people familiar with the matter.

The sale is expected to kick off in the coming weeks and include suitors such as Rupert Murdoch's News Corp., these people said. It is unclear whether the auction will be restricted to newspapers, or will include some of Tribune Co.'s digital properties, like Career Builder, as well.

"There is a lot of interest in our newspapers, which we haven't solicited," Tribune spokesman Gary Weitman said. "Hiring outside financial advisers will help us determine whether that interest is credible, allow us to consider all of our options, and fulfill our fiduciary responsibility to our shareholders and employees."

The fate of the company's print assets — which include flagship titles like the Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times — has been in question since the parent company exited bankruptcy.

In 2007, real estate mogul Sam Zell took Tribune Co. private in a leveraged buyout that stacked some $13 billion in debt on a flagging newspapers business, right as the recession was starting. Tribune Co. declared bankruptcy one year after the deal, a situation Zell publicly has described as "a perfect storm."

A potential deal for the newspaper assets would be a boon to JPMorgan, a leading lender in the leveraged buyout, and a minority owner of the company post-bankruptcy.

Analysts at Nomura have valued Tribune's publishing assets at roughly $850 million, or $14 a share. The company, while private, currently trades on the oblique Pink Sheets – spiking on news events such as the appointment of CEO Peter Liguori.

By CNBC's Kayla Tausche; Follow her on Twitter: @KaylaTausche

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