July 14, 2011

You may not have heard of Alden Global Capital, but it has become a significant investor in media companies, including Tribune Co., MediaNews and Philadelphia Media Network.

“They kind of, along the way, supplanted [investment firm] Angelo Gordon as a lead force in private equity ownership of distressed newspapers,” said Poynter’s Rick Edmonds.

The strategy is to make changes at these media companies and sell them at a profit, which investors have indicated could take three to five years, Edmonds said.

Thursday, Alden Global purchased Journal Register, which it owned in part after the company emerged from bankruptcy in 2009. Alden may also be among the bidders for the San Diego Union-Tribune and Freedom Communications.

“You’re not going to see the principals of these firms at NAA conventions,” said Edmonds, “but you will see Greg Osberg [publisher and CEO of Philadelphia Media Network] and their picks [as publishers] there.”

“The name you hear most in talking to publishers is that of Alden Global Capital, the company that became more prominent in the recent MediaNews shuffles,” media business analyst Ken Doctor wrote in March. “Alden, we believe, holds its largest stakes in MediaNews and Freedom, both in the neighborhood of 40 percent.”

These are their news organization holdings, as of the latest filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Alden Global Capital news holdings as of 3/31/2011
Organization name Value of shares
A.H. Belo Corp. $4,026,000
Freedom Communications Unknown (private)
Gannett $142,998,000
Journal Communications $1,885,000
Journal Register Unknown (private)
LIN TV $4,367,000
McClatchy $4,420,000
Media General $1,195,000
MediaNews Unknown (private)
Nexstar Broadcasting Group $6,459,000
Philadelphia Media Network Unknown (private)
Sinclair Broadcast Group $15,675,000
Tribune Company Unknown (private)
Source: SEC filing

Taken together, these holdings give Alden Global a stake in the largest and second largest newspaper companies by circulation, as well as publications or TV stations in the largest media markets. Here’s what’s happening at some of these businesses:

The stock prices of many of their public news companies have dropped in the first half of the year:

Midyear Newspaper Stock Prices, 2011
Company name 6/30/11 Price per share 12/31/10 Price per share Percent Change
A.H. Belo $7.44 $8.70 -14.5%
Gannett $14.32 $15.09 -5.1%
Journal Communications $5.17 $5.05 +2.4%
LIN TV $4.87 $5.30 -8.11%
McClatchy $2.81 $4.67 -39.8%
Media General $3.82 $5.78 -51.3%
Nexstar $8.21 $5.99 +37.06%
Sinclair $10.98 $8.18 +34.22%
Source: Yahoo Finance

Julie Moos contributed the second half of this report, beginning with the SEC filing.

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Steve Myers was the managing editor of Poynter.org until August 2012, when he became the deputy managing editor and senior staff writer for The Lens,…
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