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Hedge fund strikes deal for Tribune Publishing newspaper group

By AFP - Feb 17,2021 - Last updated at Feb 17,2021

This photo shows employees at the Chicago Tribune sold to a hedge fund on Wednesday (AFP file photo)

WASHINGTON — The publisher of the Chicago Tribune, New York Daily News and other regional newspapers has struck a deal to be sold to a hedge fund with a reputation for aggressive cost-cutting at its media outlets.

Alden Global Capital said it would pay $650 million to acquire the shares it does not already own in Tribune Publishing, according to a joint statement on Tuesday on the latest deal consolidating the struggling US newspaper sector.

As part of the agreement, the companies agreed to spin off the Baltimore Sun to a nonprofit group formed this year called Sunlight for All Institute, which will operate the daily and its affiliates in Maryland. 

Tribune chairman Philip Franklin said that the publishing group's committee examining offers was able to negotiate "a premium, all-cash price, which the committee concluded was superior to the available alternatives".

The deal comes with newspapers across the United States facing a financial calamity worsened by the coronavirus pandemic, with several bankruptcies and consolidations in recent years.

The Alden deal drew fire from some media watchdogs concerned about the hedge fund's reputation for slashing costs at newspapers it has acquired.

News Guild President Jon Schleuss called the buyout "a terrible deal for the company, the workers, the shareholders and our democracy", adding in a tweet: "Alden is only interested in extreme short-term profits by cutting everything to the bone."

Vanity Fair media writer Joe Pompeo recently called Alden "the hedge fund vampire that bleeds newspapers dry," citing its downsizing of newsrooms at The Denver Post and other local newspapers.

Washington Post columnist Margaret Sullivan in 2018 called Alden "one of the most ruthless of the corporate strip-miners seemingly intent on destroying local journalism".

The deal — subject to shareholder approval — would take Tribune Publishing private and include the Hartford Courant, South Florida's Sun Sentinel and Orlando Sentinel, Virginia's Daily Press and The Virginian-Pilot, as well as The Morning Call of Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania.

 

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