April 8, 2007

The Tribune Company Sale: An Object Lesson in the Price of Biased Reporting?

OVERVIEW: I believe that the sale of The Tribune Company last week to investor Sam Zell is an unrecognized low-water mark in the newspaper publishing business. In fact, after subtracting the value of the Tribune’s non-newspaper properties from the deal, what little value remains indicates that the value of having access to a newspaper’s readers is a mind-boggling 70% less than it was a mere seven years ago.

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Is it possible that Tribune Company investors are paying the price of many years of relentless misreporting and biased reporting at its newspapers, especially those it acquired when it bought Times Mirror in 2000? While the numbers presented here of necessity involve a fair amount of approximation, it’s hard to avoid concluding that the answer is “yes.”

A chart of The Tribune Company’s stock performance during the past eight years shows that it has clearly been an underperformer:

TRBgraph1999to2007

That big dip you see in the graph above in early 2000 represents the market’s initial reaction, noted in this New York TimesSelect tease, to the Tribune’s Times Mirror acquisition announcement:

MULTIMEDIA DEAL: THE IMPACT; Investors Overreact to Deal, Analysts Say
March 14, 2000

Tribune Co’s agreement to buy Times Mirror Co spells bad news for Tribune shareholders; Tribune’s stock falls $6.375, more than 17 percent, to $30.8125, its lowest level in more than a year; but some big investors and stock analysts say worries that $6.45 billion deal will hurt Tribune’s profits were overdone …..

The stock recovered in the week that followed and restored the size of the deal to the $8 billion level. But it’s clear now in hindsight that the “overreactors” were on to something.

The fact is that the Los Angeles Times and the other newspapers acquired in the Times Mirror purchase have dragged down the Tribune Company ever since it acquired them for over $8 billion seven years ago.

Things appeared to go well at first. in June 2001, a bit over one year after the Times Mirror purchase, The Tribune Company’s 10K-A report to the SEC stated that the market value of the stock was just under $8.7 billion. Including dividends, this means that investors had achieved a pretty decent low double-digit return after the acquisition.

But by March 2007, having had six more years to take advantage of the Times Mirror’s four newspapers it had acquired (The Los Angeles Times, Hartford Courant, The Baltimore Sun, and Long Island’s Newsday), the Tribune Company had degraded to the point that it was worth about 6% less, or $8.2 billion, to investor Sam Zell.

Now consider that the Tribune’s Chicago Cubs baseball team, which Zell plans to sell, is estimated to be worth about $600 million, up from roughly $250 million in 2001.

Take the Cubs’ value out of both 2001 and 2007, and the rest of the company’s value went from $8.45 billion ($8.7 billion minus the Cubs’ $250 million) to $7.6 billion (Zell’s purchase price of $8.2 billion minus the Cubs’ $600 million) — a decline of 10%. Consider inflation during that time, and you’re looking at a meltdown in real value of well over 25%.

Next, look at the Tribune’s 23 television stations. What if the Chandler family, one of the others who looked at buying the company, are right in their belief, noted here, that those stations are worth $4.2 billion? That would leave the remainder of the company worth only $3.4 billion (the $7.6 billion taking out the Cubs minus the TV stations’ $4.2 billion).

The non-newspaper remainder of the Tribune Company includes:
- Superstation WGN.
- Chicago radio powerhouse WGN-AM.
- Tribune Entertainment, which owns 11 syndicated TV shows, the most famous of which are “Family Feud,” “South Park,” “Soul Train,” and “Candid Camera.”
- 24-hour news channel Chicagoland Television.
- Six other smaller properties.

It doesn’t seem like much of a stretch to assign a value of at least $1 billion to all of these (it could very well be much higher). This leaves a relatively paltry $2.4 billion to spread around to the newspapers, which include:
- The Chicago Tribune
- The four former Times Mirror properties noted above
- The Orlando Sentinel
- Nine other smaller papers.

How paltry is that $2.4 billion?

  • The Tribune company paid $8 billion for Times Mirror in 2000. This included “extensive magazine holdings” worth at most $1 billion, leaving $7 billion in value assigned to the then roughly 1.85 million reader circulation of the four Times Mirror newspapers. That’s a price per reader, if you will, of about $3,800.
  • Even if you assign no value to the company’s smaller newspapers, it appears that Sam Zell was just able to pay $2.4 billion to “buy” about 2.3 million readers at the company’s six major newspapers. That’s a price per reader of about $1,040 — a decline of over 70% in just seven years.

(Yes, I know that this ignores Sunday readership, but I am confident that if it were considered, the 70%-plus decline in the value of a newspaper reader would still hold. — Ed.)

Now let’s return to the question at the beginning of the post:

Is it possible that Tribune Company investors are paying the price of many years of relentless misreporting and biased reporting at its newspapers, especially those it acquired when it bought Times Mirror in 2000?

In the face of such a steep decline (and even though the Internet and other factors have surely been been partial contributors), how can anyone doubt it?

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.

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UPDATE: Zell’s comments on the availability of content (blogged on here, here, and here; HT Instapundit) indicate he actually thinks he can lock it up and charge for it. If that mythical ability went into his purchase calculations, he may have overpaid — by a lot.

UPDATE 2: I’m not clear on this myself, but I am told that Zell may not have bought the Cubs, and that the Trib is selling it separately. If so, that would mean that $3 billion in value would be spread over 2.3 million readers, resulting in per-reader value of about $1,300, making the per-reader value decline in 7 years “only” about 66%.

UPDATE 2A: On the other hand, you would think that the papers’ real estate holdings are a significant part of the deal, and that they would have increased significantly in value during the past seven years. This would probably at least offset the impact of the Cubs possibly not being part of the deal.

UPDATE 3: Thomas Lifson at American Thinker took note of this post. If there’s a better group blog than AT, I don’t know what it would be.

Positivity: Evidence of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 12:11 pm

Note: This post, a BizzyBlog Easter tradition, will be the last one until either late Sunday or early Monday.
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Here’s a good layman’s terms explanation:

Was Christ’s tomb really empty?

One of the undisputed details of the resurrection is that the tomb was indeed empty. The first indicator is the reaction of the Jewish authorities when faced with the disciples’ claim that Jesus had risen from the dead. Instead of producing the body, or perhaps organizing a search, they bribed the soldiers who had guarded the tomb (Matt. 28:11-15). In other words, instead of refuting the disciples’ claims, they merely rejected them. Paul also banks on the empty tomb in 1 Corinthians 15:6, when he mentions Jesus’ appearance to the 500, “most of whom are still living.” Since the eyewitnesses were still alive, it would have been foolish for him to make such a bold and easily disproved claim without confidence in its accuracy.

Did Christ appear to anyone after his death?

There is much biblical testimony of Christ’s independent appearances to over 500 different individuals after his resurrection. In fact, the resurrection accounts list as many as 12 different appearances of Christ, starting with Mary Magdalene and ending with the apostle Paul. These appearances could not have been hallucinations, due to the variety of situations and the number of individuals involved –there is no such thing as a “group hallucination.” Further, these appearances were physical and tangible in nature, as evidenced by Christ’s actions (e.g., eating with the disciples and suggesting that they touch his side and his hands). His resurrected body, though immortal, was undoubtedly a physical body.

The answers to the above questions endeavor to provide direct evidence for the historical veracity of the resurrection of Christ. At this point it might be useful to ask if there is any additional, indirect evidence for his resurrection.

Resurrection of Christ – The Impact on His Followers

The strongest indirect evidence for the resurrection of Christ involves the transformation of His disciples. At the time of Jesus’ death, the disciples were scattered (only John was present at the crucifixion), scared (Peter denied Christ three times for fear of being associated with him), and skeptical (the two disciples on the road to Emmaus doubted even while they talked with Jesus; Thomas demanded physical proof before he would believe). It seems highly unlikely that a group in this sad state would suddenly pull themselves together and start a church that endures even today; such a transformation is much more likely if predicated on an experience of the resurrected Christ. What else can explain the boldness and courage of a group who initially hid in secret (John 20:19)?

Further indirect evidence can be found in the emphasis of apostolic teaching. Instead of focusing on one of Jesus’ teachings from the Sermon on the Mount, for example, they proclaimed instead the resurrection of Christ. In fact, within weeks of Christ’s death, the apostles were “with great power … giving testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 4:33). Repeated encounters with the resurrected Christ provide the best explanation for the dominance of this theme.

As the apostles proclaimed the resurrection of Christ, the early church grew quickly. As a sect of Judaism — a religion tenaciously committed to monotheism — it is quite surprising that they would claim an exalted state of deity for Christ, pray to him as Lord, and baptize in his name! The bodily resurrection of Christ, coupled with the coming of the Holy Spirit, is again the best explanation for this.

The Four Gospels of the Resurrection (2007)

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 12:01 am

This post is a BizzyBlog Easter vigil tradition.

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Matthew 28:1-20

1 ¶ In the end of the sabbath, as it began to dawn toward the first day of the week, came Mary Magdalene and the other Mary to see the sepulchre. 2 And, behold, there was a great earthquake: for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled back the stone from the door, and sat upon it. 3 His countenance was like lightning, and his raiment white as snow: 4 And for fear of him the keepers did shake, and became as dead men. 5 And the angel answered and said unto the women, Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which was crucified. 6 He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay. 7 And go quickly, and tell his disciples that he is risen from the dead; and, behold, he goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see him: lo, I have told you. 8 And they departed quickly from the sepulchre with fear and great joy; and did run to bring his disciples word. 9 And as they went to tell his disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, All hail. And they came and held him by the feet, and worshipped him. 10 Then said Jesus unto them, Be not afraid: go tell my brethren that they go into Galilee, and there shall they see me.

11 ¶ Now when they were going, behold, some of the watch came into the city, and shewed unto the chief priests all the things that were done. 12 And when they were assembled with the elders, and had taken counsel, they gave large money unto the soldiers, 13 Saying, Say ye, His disciples came by night, and stole him away while we slept. 14 And if this come to the governor’s ears, we will persuade him, and secure you. 15 So they took the money, and did as they were taught: and this saying is commonly reported among the Jews until this day.

16 ¶ Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them. 17 And when they saw him, they worshipped him: but some doubted. 18 And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. 19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen. (Matthew 28:1-20 AV)

Luke 24:1-53

1 ¶ Now upon the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they came unto the sepulchre, bringing the spices which they had prepared, and certain others with them. 2 And they found the stone rolled away from the sepulchre. 3 And they entered in, and found not the body of the Lord Jesus. 4 And it came to pass, as they were much perplexed thereabout, behold, two men stood by them in shining garments: 5 And as they were afraid, and bowed down their faces to the earth, they said unto them, Why seek ye the living among the dead? 6 He is not here, but is risen: remember how he spake unto you when he was yet in Galilee, 7 Saying, The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again. 8 And they remembered his words, 9 And returned from the sepulchre, and told all these things unto the eleven, and to all the rest. 10 It was Mary Magdalene, and Joanna, and Mary the mother of James, and other women that were with them, which told these things unto the apostles. 11 And their words seemed to them as idle tales, and they believed them not. 12 Then arose Peter, and ran unto the sepulchre; and stooping down, he beheld the linen clothes laid by themselves, and departed, wondering in himself at that which was come to pass.

13 ¶ And, behold, two of them went that same day to a village called Emmaus, which was from Jerusalem about threescore furlongs. 14 And they talked together of all these things which had happened. 15 And it came to pass, that, while they communed together and reasoned, Jesus himself drew near, and went with them. 16 But their eyes were holden that they should not know him. 17 And he said unto them, What manner of communications are these that ye have one to another, as ye walk, and are sad? 18 And the one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answering said unto him, Art thou only a stranger in Jerusalem, and hast not known the things which are come to pass there in these days? 19 And he said unto them, What things? And they said unto him, Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, which was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people: 20 And how the chief priests and our rulers delivered him to be condemned to death, and have crucified him. 21 But we trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel: and beside all this, to day is the third day since these things were done. 22 Yea, and certain women also of our company made us astonished, which were early at the sepulchre; 23 And when they found not his body, they came, saying, that they had also seen a vision of angels, which said that he was alive. 24 And certain of them which were with us went to the sepulchre, and found it even so as the women had said: but him they saw not. 25 Then he said unto them, O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken: 26 Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory? 27 And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself. 28 And they drew nigh unto the village, whither they went: and he made as though he would have gone further. 29 But they constrained him, saying, Abide with us: for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent. And he went in to tarry with them. 30 And it came to pass, as he sat at meat with them, he took bread, and blessed it, and brake, and gave to them. 31 And their eyes were opened, and they knew him; and he vanished out of their sight. 32 And they said one to another, Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures? 33 And they rose up the same hour, and returned to Jerusalem, and found the eleven gathered together, and them that were with them, 34 Saying, The Lord is risen indeed, and hath appeared to Simon. 35 And they told what things were done in the way, and how he was known of them in breaking of bread.

36 ¶ And as they thus spake, Jesus himself stood in the midst of them, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. 37 But they were terrified and affrighted, and supposed that they had seen a spirit. 38 And he said unto them, Why are ye troubled? and why do thoughts arise in your hearts? 39 Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have. 40 And when he had thus spoken, he shewed them his hands and his feet. 41 And while they yet believed not for joy, and wondered, he said unto them, Have ye here any meat? 42 And they gave him a piece of a broiled fish, and of an honeycomb. 43 And he took it, and did eat before them. 44 And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me. 45 Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures, 46 And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: 47 And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 And ye are witnesses of these things. 49 And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high.

50 ¶ And he led them out as far as to Bethany, and he lifted up his hands, and blessed them. 51 And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven. 52 And they worshipped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy: 53 And were continually in the temple, praising and blessing God. Amen. (Luke 24:1-53 AV)

John 20:1-31

1 ¶ The first [day] of the week cometh Mary Magdalene early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulchre, and seeth the stone taken away from the sepulchre. 2 Then she runneth, and cometh to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple, whom Jesus loved, and saith unto them, They have taken away the Lord out of the sepulchre, and we know not where they have laid him. 3 Peter therefore went forth, and that other disciple, and came to the sepulchre. 4 So they ran both together: and the other disciple did outrun Peter, and came first to the sepulchre. 5 And he stooping down, [and looking in], saw the linen clothes lying; yet went he not in. 6 Then cometh Simon Peter following him, and went into the sepulchre, and seeth the linen clothes lie, 7 And the napkin, that was about his head, not lying with the linen clothes, but wrapped together in a place by itself. 8 Then went in also that other disciple, which came first to the sepulchre, and he saw, and believed. 9 For as yet they knew not the scripture, that he must rise again from the dead. 10 Then the disciples went away again unto their own home.

11 ¶ But Mary stood without at the sepulchre weeping: and as she wept, she stooped down, [and looked] into the sepulchre, 12 And seeth two angels in white sitting, the one at the head, and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain. 13 And they say unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? She saith unto them, Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him. 14 And when she had thus said, she turned herself back, and saw Jesus standing, and knew not that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou? She, supposing him to be the gardener, saith unto him, Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away. 16 Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and saith unto him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master. 17 Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and [to] my God, and your God. 18 Mary Magdalene came and told the disciples that she had seen the Lord, and [that] he had spoken these things unto her.

19 ¶ Then the same day at evening, being the first [day] of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace [be] unto you. 20 And when he had so said, he shewed unto them [his] hands and his side. Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the Lord. 21 Then said Jesus to them again, Peace [be] unto you: as [my] Father hath sent me, even so send I you. 22 And when he had said this, he breathed on [them], and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost: 23 Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; [and] whose soever [sins] ye retain, they are retained. 24 But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 The other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the Lord. But he said unto them, Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe.

26 ¶ And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them: [then] came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace [be] unto you. 27 Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust [it] into my side: and be not faithless, but believing. 28 And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God. 29 Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed [are] they that have not seen, and [yet] have believed. 30 And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book: 31 But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name. (John 20:1-31 AV)

Mark 16:1-20

1 ¶ And when the sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome, had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him. 2 And very early in the morning the first day of the week, they came unto the sepulchre at the rising of the sun. 3 And they said among themselves, Who shall roll us away the stone from the door of the sepulchre? 4 And when they looked, they saw that the stone was rolled away: for it was very great. 5 And entering into the sepulchre, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a long white garment; and they were affrighted. 6 And he saith unto them, Be not affrighted: Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified: he is risen; he is not here: behold the place where they laid him. 7 But go your way, tell his disciples and Peter that he goeth before you into Galilee: there shall ye see him, as he said unto you. 8 And they went out quickly, and fled from the sepulchre; for they trembled and were amazed: neither said they any thing to any man; for they were afraid.

9 ¶ Now when Jesus was risen early the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had cast seven devils. 10 And she went and told them that had been with him, as they mourned and wept. 11 And they, when they had heard that he was alive, and had been seen of her, believed not. 12 After that he appeared in another form unto two of them, as they walked, and went into the country. 13 And they went and told it unto the residue: neither believed they them.

14 ¶ Afterward he appeared unto the eleven as they sat at meat, and upbraided them with their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they believed not them which had seen him after he was risen. 15 And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. 16 He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned. 17 And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; 18 They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.

19 ¶ So then after the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God. 20 And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. Amen. (Mark 16:1-20 AV)