Hedge Fund in Talks to Buy Tribune Publishing

From a Wall Street Journal story by Cara Lombardo and Lukas I. Alpert headlined “Alden Is in Talks to Buy Tribune Publishing”:

A hedge fund that owns a big stake in Tribune Publishing Co. is in talks to buy the newspaper chain behind titles including the Chicago Tribune and New York Daily News.

Alden Global Capital LLC, Tribune’s largest shareholder with a 32% stake, is discussing a deal with the publishing company to buy the shares it doesn’t already own, according to people familiar with the matter. A deal for Tribune could be reached this month. . . .

Alden made an offer late last year to buy the shares for $14.25 apiece. They have been trading above that level since the bid was disclosed, suggesting investors expect a deal at a higher price. Tribune stock was trading at around $15.13 Thursday afternoon. . . .

A deal involving Alden would require signoff from two-thirds of shareholders unaffiliated with the hedge fund. This group includes Patrick Soon-Shiong, the billionaire biotech investor who owns a roughly 24% stake, and Mason Slaine, a former media executive with roughly 8%. Mr. Slaine previously said Alden’s initial offer was too low.

A deal would have far-reaching implications for an industry beset by sharp declines in revenue over the past 20 years that have led to a wave of consolidations and cost cuts. Between 2008 and 2019, the industry shed 51% of its newsroom jobs, according to the Pew Research Center.

Tribune, one of the biggest newspaper chains in the country by circulation, publishes nine larger-market dailies including the Baltimore Sun, Orlando Sentinel and Hartford Courant.

Alden controls MediaNews Group, a private company that owns some 60 daily newspapers around the country including the Denver Post, San Jose Mercury News and Orange County Register. The hedge fund has a reputation for making deep cost cuts at titles it acquires.

MNG in 2019 made a hostile bid to buy USA Today publisher Gannett Co. and when it was met with resistance ran an unsuccessful proxy fight for eight board seats. A few months later, Gannett reached a deal to sell itself to New Media Investment Group Inc., the parent of GateHouse Media.

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