Old story causes new trouble


Shares of United Airlines parent UAL Corp. fell 75% at one point yesterday before Nasdaq halted trading so information about the company could be clarified. Apparently a Chicago Tribune story from 2002 about UAL filing bankruptcy was briefly posted on Bloomberg by an investment advisory and research firm. At first it was claimed that the story had appeared as current news on the website of Tribune Company’s South Florida Sun Sentinel, but Tribune says that is not true – that the investment firm pulled it from the archive section of the website.

In fact, UAL emerged from Chapter 11 two years ago. And after seeing what happened to its stock on Wall Street, UAL management is, to say the least, a bit miffed.

“United Airlines today said reports that the company filed for bankruptcy are completely untrue and were caused by the irresponsible posting of a 6-year-old Chicago Tribune article by the Florida Sun Sentinel newspaper website with the date changed. The story was related to United’s 2002 bankruptcy filing, and United has demanded a retraction from the Sun Sentinel and is launching an investigation. United exited bankruptcy in February 2006,” the airline company said in a statement Monday.

“United continues to execute its previously announced business plan to successfully navigate through an environment marked by volatile fuel prices and continues to have strong liquidity,” UAL Corp. added.

Tribune, however, denies that the story was posted yesterday on the Sun Sentinel website.

"Our preliminary investigation into the events of today’s reporting on United Airlines revealed the following information:

A Chicago Tribune story written in December 2002 regarding the United Airlines bankruptcy filing that year was apparently picked up by an investment advisory and research firm and republished as though it was current. The story was located in the archive section of the website of the Sun Sentinel in South Florida. The story contains information that would clearly lead a reader to the conclusion that it was related to events in 2002. In addition, the comments posted along with the story are dated 2002.

To be clear, no story appeared today or over the weekend on the Sun Sentinel website or any Tribune website regarding United Airlines’ filing for bankruptcy," Tribune Company said in a statement last evening.