Freedom filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection earlier this week, a move that will all but eliminate the legacy ownership stake held by the Hoiles family in favor of a board appointed by the company's major lenders, including JPMorgan Chase.
Banks, as Alan Mutter points out in this Colorado Springs Gazette article, aren't in the business of running newspapers. They'll want to unload the chain - in whole or in pieces - as soon as possible. The list of potential buyers has shrunk to almost zero given the state of the newspaper industry, but MediaNews has at least two reasons to want Freedom.
First, MediaNews has its headquarters and its flagship, the Post, in Denver, and so might want to absorb Freedom's properties in Colorado. Mutter had this to say about Singleton's interest in Freedom's Colorado papers:
Mutter said Denver Post owner MediaNews Group would be a logical buyer because it could hold down expenses by combining operations with the Post. The Gazette already delivers the Post in the Pikes Peak region, and the two papers share news stories.
Second, Freedom owns the Orange County Register, once a prime target in the Southern California newspaper wars and a missing link in Singleton surround-the-Los-Angeles-Times advertising/circulation strategy. In 2003, Singleton showed his interest when he and Gannett partnered to try to take over Freedom.
MediaNews Chairman and Post Publisher Dean Singleton said he’s always interested in Colorado properties, but has had no talks with Freedom officials about purchasing The Gazette.
“We’d have to wait and see how things play out,” said Singleton, whose company also has been reported to have its own massive debt load.
While plunging circulation and ad revenues have cooled the wars, MediaNews has reached out to partner with the Register on several fronts (and to varying degrees of success). For instance, the papers share sports stories and the Register prints Singleton's San Gabriel Valley newspapers.
The Los Angeles Times might want to bid the Register if Freedom is sold off in pieces, but Times owner Tribune Co. is itself ensconced in Chapter 11 and might not have the financial nimbleness needed to compete.