June 26, 2017

When it comes to the sale of the Chicago Sun-Times, one craves the kind of decisiveness demonstrated by the early-morning tweets of President Trump.

Who knows, maybe he’d announce a sale to his favorite media vehicle, “Fox & Friends.” We are, after all, in rather uncharted territory on many fronts with the president.

By Monday, there was still no conclusion to what appears a mix of corporate melodrama and government soap opera involving one of the few cities left with competitive dailies. Multiple deadlines have passed with an initial tentative deal to sell the tabloid to Tronc, owner of the more stable Chicago Tribune, still in somewhat improbable limbo.

That deal looked logical, given a lack of other suitors and pre-existing business relationships, with the Tribune printing and distributing the Sun-Times in a lucrative (for the Tribune) arrangement.

And it clearly is part of the expansionist desires of Michael Ferro, the idiosyncratic tech executive who formerly owned the Sun-Times but then found himself engineering a de facto coup at Tronc and winding up going from friendly investor to lord of a much larger media manor that includes The Los Angeles Times, Baltimore Sun and Hartford Courant.

He’d offered what is believed to be a largely stock deal, apparently in the area of $20 million. Meanwhile, Edwin Eisendrath, a onetime local Democratic elected official, made a last-minute offer with a group of labor unions.

That group apparently has offered $1 and proof demanded by the Justice Department antitrust division that it could afford several years of losses. It’s been clear for weeks that the department wants to explore every seeming viable alternative before approving a deal that would further concentrate media in Chicago.”

As of Monday, the department has not yet made a public determination of whether the Sun-Times’ liquidation value makes the Eisendrath offer too low (as the company that owns the paper believes) or fair (in the mind of Eisendrath and allies).

Such a determination would not seem to be as complicated as the general run of antitrust matters that confront the division. And then there’s the issue of how solid are the commitments of the unions.

As it plays out, Tronc waits. And waits.

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New York City native, graduate of Collegiate School, Amherst College and Roosevelt University. Married to Cornelia Grumman, dad of Blair and Eliot. National columnist, U.S.…
James Warren

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