In late February, William Stinehart Jr., a partner at Los Angeles’ Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher met with Mark Willes, the chief executive officer and chairman of the board of The Times Mirror Co. Stinehart presented Willes with startling news.

The Gibson Dunn partner, who is also a Times Mirror director, had been negotiating a sale of the company to the Tribune Co. of Chicago and would recommend that the Times Mirror board approve the deal, according to information in filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Los Angeles Times. Willes was shocked. This was the first time he had heard of the matter.