In addition to Tronc Inc., which owns Chicago Tribune, at least one other bidder is making an offer to buy the Chicago Sun-Times and Chicago Reader.
Edwin Eisendrath, a Chicago businessman and former 43rd Ward alderman, filed “a letter of intent” Monday in partnership with the Chicago Federation of Labor to bid on the Sun-Times, Reader and other media assets owned by Wrapports LLC, according to a source close to the bidding process.
“It’s a letter stating your intent to make an offer in broad terms,” the source said. “It’s sort of a stated promise to make an offer that also says, ‘Here’s who we are, and we think the company’s worth is in this range of money, and we want to do further investigation. It’s not a specific price yet.
“More specific figures will be required by mid-month,” the source added.
Eisendrath could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
Under a sale process being supervised by the U.S. Department of Justice, bids for the Sun-Times and all other Wrapports assets were due by 5 p.m. Monday.
The Justice Department’s involvement stems from Tronc last month announcing its intent to buy the rival Sun-Times for undisclosed terms.
Traditionally, the federal government has frowned upon a single entity controlling multiple media operations in the same market — concerns that both Tronc and Wrapports have tried to ease by saying the Tribune and Sun-Times would continue to operate as separate, independent voices should a deal go through.
Because of the Tronc offer, the Justice Department asked Wrapports to solicit other bidders, which it did last month through an ad in the Sun-Times. Now that the bid window is apparently closed, it’s unclear whether the Eisendrath group is the only one to bid.
Billionaire Neil Bluhm’s family was another potential bidder, according to a Monday report by Crain’s Chicago Business. But media columnist Robert Feder reported Tuesday that the Bluhms didn’t submit a bid.
Representatives for the Bluhms haven’t returned messages seeking comment.
In an email to Sun-Times employees Tuesday morning, Publisher and Editor in Chief Jim Kirk said Wrapports had “received communication from multiple parties” before the deadline expired.
“We are now in the process of briefing the Department of Justice on what we received,” Kirk wrote. “We expect this process to take a few days at which time we should have more clarity about next steps. We will update everyone on what’s next as soon as we are able.”
Kirk added that “this process should be a reminder that our brands are highly valued because of the incredible work done by everyone at this company. We remain a vital resource in our market, and management and the board remain committed to do what’s best for our titles long term.”
Under its letter of intent, Tronc — whose chairman is Chicago tech entrepreneur Michael Ferro Jr. — would own and operate the Sun-Times as a separate entity. The two companies are already closely linked, as the Sun-Times pays Tronc, short for Tribune Online Content, to print and distribute its print editions.
The Chicago News Guild has been opposed to a Tronc-Wrapports deal. The union has launched a “#NoNewsMonopoly” Facebook page and Twitter hashtag campaign.
Details about the Chicago Federation of Labor’s involvement in Eisendrath’s bid were unclear. The CFL is an umbrella organization thatrepresents 300 unions across Chicago and Cook County with a total membership of about 500,000 workers.
Before the bid deadline on Monday, CFL president Jorge Ramirez said in a statement that it “is imperative for Chicago to continue to maintain two independent newspapers, ensuring diverse coverage of the stories that affect the Chicago region. . . . As the oldest, continuously published newspaper in Chicago, the Sun-Times has a reputation for in-depth, fact-based reporting. We hope that whoever the new owners may be, they are able to restore its legacy of serving the people of Chicago.”