The Tribune Co. — publisher of five Pulitzer Prize-winning newspapers and owner of the Chicago Cubs baseball team — filed for bankruptcy protection Monday in an effort to cope with almost $13 billion in debt.
The company listed $7.6 billion in assets and some $12.97 billion in debt in its filing in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Delaware. JPMorgan Chase and Merrill Lynch were listed as the company's largest unsecured creditors.
In a statement on its Web site, Tribune said its newspapers and television stations will continue to operate normally as the company restructures. The company made routine motions to continue its operations, including maintaining payroll and health benefits for employees, which are expected to receive approval within a few days. The Chicago Cubs and Wrigley Field were not part of the Chapter 11 filing, the company said.
"Factors beyond our control have created a perfect storm — a precipitous decline in revenue and a tough economy coupled with a credit crisis that makes it extremely difficult to support our debt," Tribune Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Sam Zell said in a statement.
Founded in 1847, Tribune — the publisher of the Chicago Tribune and Los Angeles Times — took on massive debt when it went private last year under a deal led by Zell, a Chicago real estate mogul.
The company has tried to raise money and cut costs by selling off other interests and axing jobs. Earlier this year, Tribune sold Long Island, N.Y., newspaper Newsday to Cablevision Systems Corp. Tribune also sold a 10 percent interest in online job site CareerBuilder to Gannett Co. for $135 million.
In addition, the company has cut jobs at its newspapers, including eliminating 80 editorial jobs earlier this year at the Los Angeles Times, the country's fourth-largest newspaper by circulation.
The company has also wielded the ax at The Baltimore Sun, the Orlando Sentinel and The Hartford Courant and other newspaper and television stations.
Newspapers around the country have been reeling as circulation rates decline. Last week, E.W. Scripps announced that the Rocky Mountain News was up for sale.