Tribune’s board was advised by a group of bankers from Citigroup and Merrill Lynch, which walked off with $35.8 million and $37 million, respectively. But those banks played both sides of the deal: they also lent Mr. Zell the money to buy the company. For that, they shared an additional $47 million pot of fees with several other banks, according to Thomson Reuters. And then there was Morgan Stanley, which wrote a “fairness opinion” blessing the deal, for which it was paid a $7.5 million fee (plus an additional $2.5 million advisory fee).
On top of that, a firm called the Valuation Research Corporation wrote a “solvency opinion” suggesting that Tribune could meet its debt covenants. Thomson Reuters, which tracks fees, estimates V.R.C. was paid $1 million for that opinion. V.R.C. was so enamored with its role that it put out a press release.
Unbelievable. Obviously no sector is immune from shoddy practices and insane financial contortions.
My crystal ball is at the state capitol protesting atheism by showing “It’s a Wonderful Life” on a loop, but some wags are predicting there is going to be a major US city without a daily newspaper in the near future.
Before anyone breaks out the champagne, they might want to consider all those people in suits and pantsuits who walk around city halls and state capitols hatching all sorts of schemes under less scrutiny now than they deserve. The idea of a major US city being “watch dogged” mostly by local television reporters should send shivers down the spine of any citizen. Not every crooked mayor is going to be carrying a puppy around.