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Tribune offers Freedom $3M as it prepares bid for OC Register

Tribune Publishing Co., owner of the Los Angeles Times, began taking steps to buy the Orange County Register Wednesday, offering $3 million to fund operations and the bankruptcy case of the Register’s parent company. Earlier this week, Freedom Communications, the privately held company that owns the Register and the Press-Enterprise in Riverside, Calif., filed for bankruptcy protection, subjecting its assets to potential bids from prospective acquirers.

Tribune will have to outbid Freedom’s current CEO. A local investor group, led by Freedom’s CEO Rich Mirman, also plans to submit a bid for Freedom’s assets while he continues to run the company. Mike Harrah, owner of a Santa Ana, Calif.-based real estate firm, Caribou Industries, also is an investor in Mirman’s group.

“Tribune Publishing today offered to provide a $3 million refundable deposit for use by Freedom Communications to fund its operations during the bankruptcy proceedings,” Tribune said in a statement. “Tribune Publishing is seeking an open and fair process that fully involves Freedom’s creditors and other stakeholders and allows parties to bid on the assets of Freedom’s business in an appropriate manner.” Tribune, which bought the San Diego Union-Tribune in May, plans to seek a refund If Freedom’s assets are sold to another party.