In a deal worth $630 million, Alden Global Capital has agreed to acquire Tribune Publishing, publisher of the Chicago Tribune, Orlando Sentinel, the New York Daily News, The Hartford Courant and many other major newspapers.
The deal, announced after the stock market closed on Tuesday, would create one of the largest newspaper operations in the United States. Tribune Publishing announced that Alden, which already owns 32% of Tribune Publishing, would buy the remaining shares for $17.25 a piece.
The possible deal is already causing great concern for many in the media industry because Alden is a hedge fund known for deep cost-cutting measures at other newspapers it has purchased.
However, there is one piece of optimistic news out of this. As a part of the deal, The Tribune-owned Baltimore Sun will be acquired by a nonprofit formed by businessman and philanthropist Stewart Bainum Jr. According to The Baltimore Sun’s Christopher Dinsmore, the nonprofit Sunlight for All Institute would acquire The Baltimore Sun, Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Carroll County Times and several other Baltimore-area weeklies and magazines, as well as their online operations.
In a memo acquired by Poynter, Tribune CEO Terry Jimenez told Tribune staff, “Today’s announcement is the first step of a process that will take several months. The transaction is expected to close in the second quarter of 2021 and is subject to regulatory review, the approval of holders of two-thirds of Tribune common stock not owned by Alden, and other customary closing conditions. Upon completion of the transaction Tribune will become a privately held company, and its common stock will no longer be listed on any public market. We will remain focused on our journalistic mission throughout this process and I will be working closely with the Alden team to ensure a smooth transition across the organization.”
There is one thing that could hold up the sale: Los Angeles Times owner Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong has to sign off on the deal. As Poynter media business analyst Rick Edmonds wrote on Tuesday, Soon-Shiong “in essence … has veto power.” Soon-Shiong owns about 24% of Tribune Publishing.
However, Edmonds wrote he expects the deal to happen.
Edmonds wrote, “Look for all or nearly all Tribune properties to join Alden’s MediaNews Group family — once also widely known as Digital First Media — by later this year. Those holdings include The Denver Post, The Orange County Register, Boston Herald and groups of dailies in the Los Angeles and San Francisco metro areas. Then look for Alden to run its new conquests the same way it has its old ones.”