New Bidders Join Battle for Tribune Publishing

Kimberly Redmond  |

Image source: Tribune Publishing

Two more investors recently came forward in a last-ditch attempt to prevent New York hedge fund Alden Global Capital from acquiring one of the country’s largest newspaper chains, Tribune Publishing Co (Nasdaq:  TPCO), according to reports.

Alden, which already owns a 31.6% stake of Tribune Publishing, has bid $17.25 apiece for the remaining shares, valuing the newspaper chain at $630 million. A competing bid, led by Choice Hotels International Inc (NYSE:  CHH) Chairman Stewart Bainum, Jr., stands at $18.50 per share, or a $650 million valuation.

Last week, Tribune Publishing’s board opted to stick with Alden’s bid, but gave Bainum the green light to pursue financing for his bid. 

On Saturday, The New York Times reported that Hansjörg Wyss, a billionaire who lives in Wyoming, had committed up to $100 million toward Bainum's bid for control of the Chicago Tribune and said he would make additional funds available for debt financing.

The Switzerland native founded Synthes, a medical device company that was bought by Johnson & Johnson for $20 billion, and now has a non-profit foundation focused on environmental conservation.

Wyss told the New York Times, "I don’t want to see another newspaper that has a chance to increase the amount of truth being told to the American people going down the drain."

"Maybe I’m naïve, but the combination of giving enough money to a professional staff to do the right things and putting quite a bit of money into digital will eventually make it a very profitable newspaper."

The Wall Street Journal reported Monday that tech investor and minority Tribune shareholder Mason Slaine would contribute $100 million to Bainum's bid for control the Orlando Sentinel and Florida Sentinel. 

Slaine, who lives in Florida, is the former president and chief executive officer of business information company Thomson Financial, now Thomson Reuters, and former head of Interactive Data Corp, a financial data provider.  

“I believe heartily in strong investigative journalism as a necessary part of creating a safe and honest society,” Sloane said in an email obtained by the Wall Street Journal.

Alden initially agreed to sell Baltimore Sun Media for $65 million to Sunlight for All Institute, a non-profit led by Bainum. After negotiations hit a snag, however, Bainum made his bid for the whole company.

As part of the joint bid, Bainum would keep Baltimore Sun Media

Other papers owned by Tribune Publishing include the New York Daily News, Chicago Tribune, the Hartford Courant, the Capital Gazette and The Virginian-Pilot.

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Neither Tribune Publishing, Alden, Wyss or Bainum has commented on recent reports regarding the counterbid
 
Alden, which already controls MediaNews Group, a chain that owns dozens of publications including the Boston Herald and the Denver Post, is known for slashing costs and shrinking newsrooms at the newspapers it acquires. 

Following Alden’s buyout bid, unions at Tribune-owned newspapers have been pushing for alternative buyers.

On Monday, Gregory Pratt, a Chicago Tribune reporter and head of the newspaper’s guild, told The Associated Press, “All Tribune Publishing newspapers need civic minded owners, and we are encouraged to see people stepping up, from Chicago and Baltimore to Orlando. Alden Global Capital represents the worst in our industry: Greed at the expense of the public good.”

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Source: Equities News

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