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Koch Brothers eyeing Tribune Company

The Los Angeles Times building on June 7, 2012 in Los Angeles, California.
The Los Angeles Times building on June 7, 2012 in Los Angeles, California.
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

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The Tribune company, which owns many large media brands, is emerging from bankruptcy and considering selling its newspaper division, which includes, among other important U.S. dailies, the Los Angeles Times.

Billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, who are unabashed libertarians, are reportedly looking into purchasing the Tribune’s papers valued at $623 million. The thought of the Kochs and the Times linked together has had commentators speculating all week on how the sale could effect the fourth-largest newspaper in America, and this morning, NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik reported on the possibility of a sale.

Reason Editor Matt Welch, a former Los Angeles Times employee, told Folkenflik: “It would be such a culture clash, inevitably, between them and the newsroom there that it would be kind of open conflict for a long time. I would have a hard time imagining how they get out of that, how they calm that down in a productive way.”

Folkenflik reports that so far there is no official confirmation that the Koch’s are interested in buying the papers, and why would they be? Newspapers aren’t exactly gold mines these days, and the papers would be only a drop in the Koch’s revenue pipeline--the brothers businesses bring in a reported $115 billion annually.

So why are they interested? The brothers have been major donors to libertarian causes, and naturally many people are speculating that they will use these newspapers to spread their views. Others argue that changing the political tone of a paper like the LA Times is impossible, as its readers will simply flee.

So if the Koch brothers actually buy the paper, what will happen? Is this a subversive political move, or just another business venture? Furthermore, who else is bidding for the papers? And could a sale, regardless of buyer, trigger more cuts in a business that has seen its budgets slashed year after year?

David Folkenflik, NPR media correspondent