Tribune Publishing, owner of New York Daily News, sold to hedge fund

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Tribune Publishing, parent company of the New York Daily News and the Chicago Tribune, has been acquired by its largest shareholder, Alden Global Capital, which will take the publicly traded company private in a deal valued at $630 million.

The definitive agreement was announced late Tuesday.

Leading up to the deal, Alden held 31.6 percent of the publicly traded stock and had been negotiating to buy the rest of the company in a bid to take the company private.

The deal means that Alden will pay $17.25 per share in cash, or $431 million, for the 68 percent of the company that it does not already own.

Philip Franklin, Tribune board chairman and a member of the special committee negotiating the sale, said, “Over the past year, the company has taken a number of actions to adapt to an ever-changing business and industry environment, including the impact of COVID-19.” He said the price the special committee negotiated “was superior to the available alternatives.”

As part of the deal, Tribune has agreed to sell the Baltimore Sun to the Sunlight for All Institute, a not-for-profit charity founded by local businessman Stewart Bainum, Jr., chairman of the Choice Hotel chain.

Alden, a private equity firm, is known as a vicious cost cutter that will take over newspapers and sell off the coveted real estate in downtown cities to finance its debt. In the latest deal, much of the real estate for the seven newspaper chain has already been sold off.

Many of the papers that vacated their offices in the face of the pandemic have been told that they will never be returning to a newsroom. That includes the Daily News, the Hartford Courant, the Morning Call in Allentown, Pa., and the Capital Gazette, which was the site of a deranged gunman attack in June 2018 that resulted in five people being killed inside the Annapolis, Md., newsroom.

About 70 employees at the Daily News recently said they wanted to unionize with the News Guild, which already represents several other papers in the chain. They petitioned the Tribune to voluntarily recognize the union as the bargaining agent for the remaining journalists at the paper which has undergone steep cuts over the past two years.

In 2018, Tribune slashed half of the newsroom staff at the New York City tabloid.

Alden Global, headed by Heath Freeman, is already the majority owner of Digital First Media and the Media News Group, which owns the Orange County Register, the Denver Post, the Boston Herald and other papers which have undergone deep cuts since being taken over by Alden.

The other papers in the Tribune chain includes two Florida dailies; the Orlando Sentinel and South Florida Sun Sentinel; and two papers in Virginia, The Newport News and the Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk.

The transaction is expected to close in the second quarter of 2021.

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