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NYTCo In Talks To Sell Part Of Building; Tribune Finds New Cubs Owner

Desperate to free up much-needed cash as the newspaper business struggles onward, the New York Times Co (NYSE: NYT). and Tribune Company are close to selling some ancillary — if expensive — assets.

NYTCo’s sale-leaseback deal in the works: The NYTCo’s week began with the completion of the much-anticipated $250 million loan from Mexican telecom tycoon Carlos Slim Helu. Now, it looks like it may end the week with a deal to sell — and lease-back — a significant part of its midtown headquarters, NYT reported. The company is in “advanced talks” with investment management firm W. P. Carey & Co. If it goes through, NYTCo would sell the 19 floors it currently uses in the building. It would keep the 6 floors it leases to other tenants. With a sale-leaseback, which the NYTCo began exploring last month, the seller leases back the asset being sold. 

At the time, we reported that NYTCo was looking to get $225 million from mortgaging or doing a sale-leaseback of the two-year-old Renzo Piano-designed building. No word on what price the two parties are discussing. In any case, with the NYTCo carrying $1.1 billion in debt — one of its two $400 million revolving credit facilities are due in May — and advertising and circulation being squeezed even further, the deal can be seen as a small, but necessary step to get its finances under control. Investors should be somewhat pleased — though the Slim investment didn’t seem to inspire much joy, as many felt that the publisher bit off more than it could chew when it decided to get into the real-estate business.

Tribune unloads the Cubs: The luckless Cubs fans would rather get to the World Series, but for Tribune owner Sam Zell, getting this deal done must at least feel like winning a division title. Zell had signaled his desire to sell the team since buying Tribune back in 2007. Chicago financiers the Ricketts family has offered the bankrupt Tribune $900 million for the Cubs, beating out two other prospective buyers, the WSJ said. Initially, the team’s assets — which include Wrigley Field and a 25-percent stake in a Chicago regional sports network — were said to be worth $1 billion. But when the economy tanked, the value went south as well. It’s worth noting that the Cubs franchise was not included in Tribune’s bankruptcy filing last month.

Of course, it’s not a done deal yet, as Major League Baseball’s approval is required. Plus, the Ricketts have to show they can secure financing within the next two to three months — not the easiest thing given banks’ reluctance to lend these days.

Photo Credit: omar_chatriwala