Can crowd funding rescue the LA Times?

An advocacy group wants to raise $660 million from lots of little guys to keep Tribune's newspapers away from the billionaire Koch brothers.

By Aimee Picchi May 17, 2013 2:00PM

The Los Angeles Times building on June 7, 2012 in Los Angeles, Calif. (© Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)Crowd sourcing has helped revive the "Veronica Mars" movie and funded countless books, games and music projects. 

Now an advocacy group wants the power of little investors to save the Los Angeles Times from the hands of what it calls "infamous right-wing billionaires."

Those billionaires, Charles and David Koch, are said to be eyeing the Los Angeles Times and Tribune's (TRBAA) other newspapers. The brothers have been called "the 1% at its very worst" and are about as popular with liberals as bratwurst at a vegan restaurant.

Enter the little guys. 

The Other 98%, an advocacy group, is asking people to pitch in as little as $10 to help raise $660 million to buy the Tribune newspaper group and rescue it from the clutches of the Kochs. 

So far, this might be a David-versus-Goliath story in which the little guy fails to win, however. With 30 days left to go in the campaign, it has so far raised just under $62,000, less than a drop in the $660 million bucket. 

But The Other 98% is clear that part of its goal is to raise attention to corporate media ownership, if not to succeed in the purchase. "This is an experiment. To see if we can turn the tide of corporate media ownership, or at least shine a light on it," the site notes. 

Meanwhile, Tribune chief executive officer Peter Liguori wrote in a memo to employees that "speculation has been and is premature. A sale transaction is only one of our possible strategic options, and there are many others." Other potential buyers are said to be News Corp. (NWS), Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.A) and Wrapports, according to Bloomberg. 

Like other crowd funding campaigns, in this one donors are given awards depending on their level of giving. Seven people have signed up for the $1,000 "Koch-blocker" level, for instance. For that amount, they'll receive a hoodie, T-shirt, cap and sticker that bear the slogan "Free the Press," as well as "the warm fuzzy feeling that you virtually kicked" the Kochs.

The brothers' fortune comes from Koch Industries, the country's second-largest private company, which owns Georgia-Pacific and oil and gas pipelines. 

They've also been big spenders to get across their conservative views, reportedly pledging $60 million to the effort to defeat President Barack Obama in the 2012 election.

Follow Aimee Picchi on Twitter at @aimeepicchi.

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May 17, 2013 5:10PM
liberals is what LA needs rescue from
May 17, 2013 5:13PM

well a buy out would sure stop the LA Times overall slant for having open borders for all the illegal's.  and perhaps help highlight just how wacked the LA majors have been the past several years

May 20, 2013 9:48AM
It's their left wing policies that got them into this financial mess in the first place.
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