CHICAGO — Have you ever wanted to own your own media empire?
If you're willing to put up a few dollars — and withstand a few more big "ifs" — you might be able to own a stake in the Tribune Co.
A campaign launched Thursday on the fundraising site Indiegogo seeks to raise enough money to wrest control of the Tribune Co., which owns the Chicago Tribune, WGN and other media properties across the country, from corporations — and keep it out of the hands of people like Rupert Murdoch and the Koch brothers.
"Think of it as the opposite of a hostile corporate takeover," says a woman in a video on the fundraising page. "This is going to be a people's peaceful takeover of the Tribune Co."
The group behind the campaign, The Other 98%, which seeks to diminish corporate influence, said the company would be turned into a nonprofit, much like the publicly owned Green Bay Packers.
There's one problem. Well, a few more than that.
"All we have to do is raise $660 million," the video says, and it has until June 15 to raise the money. By 1 p.m. Thursday, the campaign had raised more than $16,000.
The group is among several that have expressed concern over the potential sale of the company to the Koch brothers, Kansas billionaires who have financed a wide range of conservative causes.
The New York Times reported last month that the brothers were interested in purchasing the Tribune, and said they could use its newspapers and broadcast outlets as megaphones for their various conservative causes. A protest against the sale drew about two dozen protestors to Tribune Tower last week; hundreds of people protested the potential sale in Los Angeles Wednesday
The Kochs are among a few dozen rumored Tribune suitors, including Murdoch, who owns News Corp., which publishes the Wall Street Journal and the New York Post, and is the parent company of Fox. He previously owned the Chicago Sun-Times, and has been under intense scrutiny for his handling of a phone-hacking scandal engulfing his British newspapers.
"Whomever wins, democracy, and all of us are sure to lose," warns the Indiegogo video.
A number of wealthy Los Angelenos have offered to purchase the Los Angeles Times, one of the Tribune properties, and turn it into a nonprofit; the company would prefer to sell all eight of its newspapers in a bulk sale.
But The Other 98% hopes to snag the entire lineup, and it's offering incentives to donate. A $100 donation gets you a T-shirt; a $500 donation nets a T-shirt, hat and hoodie; a $1,000 donation gets all the above, along with a "warm, fuzzy feeling" and the designation as a "Koch-Blocker."
A Tribune spokesman declined to comment.
"As a policy matter we do not comment on speculation involving the company or any of its media businesses," said spokesman Gary Weitman.