The Tribune Company has been in the news lately as it works towards selling off one of its prized assets, the Chicago Cubs. The company, which owns the Chicago Tribune, the Los Angeles Times and a slew of other papers, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last month, so it could really use whatever cash selling the Cubbies can bring in. While it might sound odd for a newspaper company to own a baseball team, the Cubs are just one unusual property held by newspaper conglomerates around the country. Here are a few others:
1. The Boston Red Sox
The Cubs aren't the only Major League Baseball team partially owned by a newspaper. The Boston Red Sox are a subsidiary of New England Sports Ventures LLC, which also owns Fenway Park and the majority of the New England Sports Network. While John W. Henry is the principal owner of this group, the New York Times Company also owns a piece. The publishing giant shelled out $75 million for a 17.5% stake in New England Sports Ventures in 2002, which makes it the company's second-largest stakeholder. In addition to the Red Sox, this share also gives the Times a stake in Roush-Fenway Racing, the NASCAR team that fields drivers Carl Edwards, Greg Biffle, and Matt Kenseth among others.
However, like the Tribune's ownership of the Cubs, this arrangement might not last too much longer. Declining ad revenues have forced the Times to divest assets that aren't related to its core publishing business, and reports have circulated in recent weeks that the paper is actively seeking a buyer for its share of the sports empire.
2. Manheim Auctions
You may not have heard of it, but Manheim Automotive Services is the world's largest car auction company. The auctioneer has 145 locations around the world where interested wholesale customers can pick up a new set of wheels. Since 1968, it's been a part of Cox Enterprises, a media conglomerate whose portfolio includes such large dailies as the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the Dayton Daily News, along with several dozen other papers. The auction business isn't Cox's only foray into the automotive world, though. It also owns Auto Trader magazine, friend of anyone in search of a used ride, and Dent Wizard, a company that specializes in paintless dent removal.
Cox once owned an even quirkier asset to go along with its newspapers: Zack Morris. Well, maybe not exactly Zack Morris, but his syndication rights. For a period of time after 1988 Cox owned Rysher Entertainment, which held the distribution rights for Saved by the Bell. That the Atlanta Journal-Constitution never gave Screech Powers a weekly column is a reprehensible oversight.
3. Kaplan, Inc.
Kaplan, the savior of anyone with standardized test anxiety, is a subsidiary of the Washington Post Company. Founder Stanley Kaplan sold his tutoring company to the publisher in 1984, and the Washington Post quickly expanded the test-prep business by gobbling up competitors through acquisitions. The plan seems to have worked perfectly; while newspapers may be in trouble, Kaplan raked in around $2 billion for its parent company last year.
The Washington Post Company actually holds a number of interesting non-paper assets. In addition to magazines like Newsweek and websites like Slate, it also owns Cable ONE, a cable and Internet service provider for homes in 19 states.
If you're a teenager who's too bashful to tell someone you've got a crush on them, eCRUSH.com will do the legwork for you. The site lets users anonymously make lists of people on whom they have crushes, and if two people list each other, then BAM! The site notifies them, and it's time for some hot hand-holding action. Hearst Media bought the site in 2006, and it now resides in the company's portfolio along with papers like the San Franciso Chronicle and magazine titles like Esquire. This sort of site probably wasn't what William Randolph Hearst envisioned when he started his publishing empire, but hopefully everyone will agree that it could really help spice up any sequels to Citizen Kane.
5. Metro Fiber & Cable Construction
This Toledo contractor can service all of your fiber-optic installation needs. It's also a subsidiary of Block Communications, which publishes Toledo's daily The Blade as well as the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
6. The Scripps National Spelling Bee
The E.W. Scripps Company publishes 15 newspapers, including the Rocky Mountain News and the Knoxville News-Sentinel. It also owns and operates an asset that's probably more familiar to anyone who's flipped through ESPN in May or June: the Scripps National Spelling Bee. Scripps now runs the bee, which started in 1925, on a not-for-profit basis in conjunction with several hundred sponsors. It proudly touts itself as the nation's largest and longest-running educational promotion.