The Latest: Judge stalls Tribune purchase of newspapers

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) — The Latest on the auction of the Orange County Register (all times local):

10:45 p.m.

A federal judge has granted a temporary restraining order blocking Tribune Publishing Co.'s purchase of the Orange County Register and Press-Enterprise newspapers in Southern California.

The ruling late Friday from U.S. District Judge Andre Birotte Jr. comes a day after the U.S. Justice Department requested the move in its antitrust lawsuit against the purchase by the owner of the Los Angeles Times.

Tribune said in court filings earlier Friday that the restraining order would effectively remove it from the competition because the deal must be quickly approved by a bankruptcy judge. A bankruptcy court hearing is scheduled for Monday.

Tribune announced Thursday that it had placed the winning $56 million bid for bankrupt Freedom Communications' newspapers. Tribune already operates the LA Times and The San Diego Union-Tribune.

The Justice Department says it sued because the sale would give Tribune a monopoly over newspaper sales in two California counties and allow it to increase subscription prices and advertising rates.

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2 p.m.

The Tribune Publishing Co. says federal regulators suing over its proposed purchase of bankrupt Orange County Register and another newspaper have an antiquated understanding of the industry in the digital age.

Tribune filed papers in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles on Friday.

The media giant won a bankruptcy auction earlier this week to purchase the Register and Press-Enterprise of Riverside for $56 million.

The U.S. Department of Justice says the merger would limit competition and harm readers and advertisers.

A bankruptcy judge must approve it at a Monday hearing — and an antitrust expert says it's possible the federal action could scuttle the deal.

The sale would give Tribune control over the four largest daily newspapers in an area stretching from Los Angeles to the Mexican border.