Baltimore Sun to be Bought by Nonprofit Media Organization

From a Baltimore Sun story by Christopher Dinsmore headlined “Baltimore Sun Media poised to be acquired by nonprofit from Tribune Publishing”:

Returning The Baltimore Sun to Maryland hands, the state’s largest newspaper and its affiliates are poised to be acquired by a nonprofit formed by businessman and philanthropist Stewart Bainum Jr. that would operate the media organization for the benefit of the community.

The sale would be part of a $630 million deal announced late Tuesday for Alden Global Capital to acquire full control of Tribune Publishing, which also publishes The Chicago Tribune, the New York Daily News and other major newspapers.

As part of the acquisition, the nonprofit Sunlight for All Institute would acquire The Baltimore Sun, the Capital Gazette papers in Annapolis, the Carroll County Times and several other Baltimore-area weeklies and magazines, as well as the affiliated online properties. . . .

The Alden-Tribune deal is not yet done, needing the approval of Tribune Publishing’s shareholders.

In its announcement, Tribune Publishing said Alden signed a “nonbinding term sheet” to sell The Sun to the nonprofit established by Bainum. Those terms were not disclosed. The Sun deal is contingent on the Alden-Tribune deal going forward.

Founded in 1837, The Sun was long owned by the Abell family of Baltimore. Local ownership ended in 1986 when the newspaper was acquired by Times Mirror Corp. The Tribune Co. acquired Times Mirror in 2000. Tribune Publishing split off from Tribune in 2014, taking the legacy newspaper operations. Later that year, Baltimore Sun Media purchased Capital Gazette Communications, publisher of The Capital and Maryland Gazette, and Carroll County Times from Landmark Publishing. . . .

In recent years, several newspapers have been acquired from chains and operate as nonprofits, including local ownership efforts in Salt Lake City, Philadelphia and the Berkshires in Massachusetts.

Rick Edmonds, a media business analyst for the Poynter Institute, said he thought local ownership could work. Poynter owns newspapers in Tampa Bay and St. Petersburg, Florida.
“I think the nonprofit model, and I am biased because Poynter has been pioneers, opens added opportunities by making it much easier for other individuals and donors and foundations to make contributions,” he said. “This can work.”

Also see a Baltimore Sun story by John O’Connor headlined “Who is Stewart Bainum Jr.? Maryland-raised businessman whose nonprofit is in line to buy The Sun has had second careers in politics, philanthropy.”

Also see the Washington Post story by Paul Farhi and Elahe Izadi headlined “The Baltimore Sun was spared a hedge-fund owner. Now it will try to survive as a nonprofit.”

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