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Zell: Tribune Co. Could Leave Chapter 11 This Year

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A day after Tribune Co. asked a bankruptcy court for more time to complete its reorganization plan, chairman and CEO Sam Zell said Tuesday the Chicago media giant could exit Chapter 11 as early as the end of the year.

"No plan has been put forward yet, though everybody's working on one, and I suspect that some time between now and maybe as early as the end of the year, it will exit from bankruptcy," Sam Zell said in an interview aired on CNBC.

On Monday, Tribune asked a U.S. Bankruptcy Court judge in Delaware to extend the deadline for filing the reorganization plan from Aug. 4 to Nov. 30.

Tribune said the it needs more time to build a consensus among the many creditors holding its more than $12 billion in debt. One complicating factor, Tribune added in its court filing, is the impending sale of the Chicago Cubs baseball team and its landmark Wrigley Field venue.

On that subject, Zell told CNBC that he believes the team and stadium will ultimately be sold to the Ricketts family, which reportedly reached a deal earlier this month that is valued at slightly less than their original $900 million bid. The sale would have to be approved by the bankruptcy court in addition to Major League Baseball team owners.

Tribune has already received one extension from the court since filing for Chapter 11 reorganization last December.

In the CNBC interview, Zell, who made his billions in real estate, also sounded a somewhat positive note about the economy in general. He said he believes the residential real estate market has reached an equilibrium where prices will stop falling, which should stabilize other parts of the economy. Newspapers in particular have been hammered by the collapse of real estate advertising.

"The key to everything is single-family housing because that's where consumption comes from," Zell said. "If people don't have confidence in their biggest asset, they won't have the confidence to spend."

Nielsen Business Media