Will the Koch Brothers Buy the Chicago Tribune?

April/30/2013 6:56AM
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I competed against Koch Petroleum in my working life. They created a great privately owned corporation by whipping we majors where we were weak. Big corporations, like the one I worked for, Amoco, tended to focus on areas that complemented our strength and generated volume. In Amoco’s case that was retailing gasoline, refining, logistics, and finding oil.

Koch operated in the cracks of the majors. Asphalt, which majors largely ignored. Distillates–diesel fuel, jet fuel, kerosene, etc. And, the big one, a trading floor. Koch was Enron before Enron existed, with expertise in trading energy products. Petroleum coke, which majors considered a waste product, Koch bought, and made money selling.

Being smaller, they succeeded by being quicker and smarter.

Now, rumor has it, the brothers, David and William Koch are considering the purchase of the Tribune Co. The parent company of the Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times, Hartford Courant, and the Baltimore Sun along with smaller newspapers.

Existing newspapers are nervous. Here’s what one, Michael Wolff, a reporter for USA Today wrote, “Curiously, most of the papers they are proposing to buy are in cities that voted overwhelmingly for the president-cities that have not had a reliably conservative base in a generation or two”

“Why you would go into a business trying to sell things that your customers don’t seem to want is hard to understand.”

Mr. Wolff, like most of the USA Today staff leans to the left.

Let me, a simple retired business executive, explain why, Mr. Wolff.  Newspapers and TV are run by managers who couldn’t work for the Koch brothers. Poor business people who came up from your job, Mr. Wolff, thinking just like you think.

Here’s the deal. While Obama won, he won by a narrow margin. Your paper, and most others, appeal to the 51% who support Obama and his views as well as yours and those of your bosses. The other 49% of the public has no newspaper, except for those run by Murdoch, like the Wall Street Journal.   The Koch brothers see this. The can appeal to almost 50% of the public in a market with zero competition. Not only will they retain most of the market the Tribune companies now have, they have a huge new market to take, those who refuse to read the crap the Tribune puts out along with that of your esteemed, MCPaper, Mr. Wolff.

You see, it’s a business that is poorly run. A business that doesn’t sell news, but sells a liberal philosophy. A business that is carrying a huge cost from  organized labor. Since the managers support organized labor, the readers are expected to pay for that cost. Good thing you don’t work for a Tribune Co. publication, Mr. Wolff, you would be out of work if this happens. Along with all of top management and most of your fellow journalists, if you can still be called journalists.

Koch brothers watch as Fox News destroys the competition for TV news. They know they can do the same with the print news business. Go back to journalism and stop the liberal propaganda. That’s it. Take on the unions and move the print business to Texas. Cut the costs. Improve distribution.

If I had to pick the two worst run businesses in this country it would be newspapers first and airlines second. Koch brothers know they can make money in the newspaper business. It’s not like they were competing against strong competitors. It’s like competing with the US Post Office or Amtrak.

I know why they are looking at the business. It’s not to be a bully platform for their political views, that’s what newspapers are now, it’s to make money. Something no one in your business understands, Mr. Wolff.

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