Tribune to split broadcasting, publishing

Pedestrians walk past the front of the Los Angeles Times building on June 7, 2012 in Los Angeles, California.
Getty Images
Pedestrians walk past the front of the Los Angeles Times building on June 7, 2012 in Los Angeles, California.

Tribune Co. will separate its publishing business from its more-profitable broadcast division, it said on Wednesday, following the path taken by Time Warner and News Corp.

Media companies have been shedding their print assets to allow a greater focus on their faster-growing broadcast businesses.

Tribune plans a tax-free spinoff of its eight newspapers, which include the Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune. The new company, Tribune Publishing Co., will have its own board and senior management team.

(Read More: Tribune to Buy 19 TV Stations for $2.73 Billion)

The broadcast company, which will retain the Tribune name, will include its 42 local TV stations, superstation WGN America, an equity stake in the TV Food Network, and digital and real estate assets.

"Each will be a stronger company when separated from the other," Tribune Chief Executive Officer Peter Liguori wrote in memo to employees. "(The spinoff) will also allow us to maintain flexibility as we continue considering all our strategic alternatives for maximizing shareholder value."

Newspapers have faced unprecedented challenges in recent years as advertisers flee the medium and consumers ditch print subscriptions in favor digital access for their smartphones and tablets.

Earlier this year, Tribune said it was looking at selling the newspapers after it retained Evercore Partners and JPMorgan Chase.

Tribune had not officially begun the sale process for the newspapers, a person familiar with the company told Reuters last week.

A separate newspaper company could be easier to sell since the split would resolve questions around real estate and digital assets like CareerBuilder and Classified Ventures.

Tribune expects to complete the separation over the next 12 months, and management will present detailed plans for the board to consider. Each company would have revenue in excess of $1 billion, Tribune said.

Tribune has already turned its attention to television. A longtime broadcast executive from Fox andDiscovery Communications, Liguori orchestrated Tribune's blockbuster acquisition of Local TV for $2.3 billion just last week.

In 2012, Tribune's publishing assets accounted for two-thirds of the company's total revenue of $3.1 billion but only 22 percent of total operating profit of $396.4 million.