Tribune still backs sale to Alden Global Capital

Hotel executive Stewart Bainum Jr., despite the loss of a well-heeled partner, said he’s still trying to find investors to make a superior offer.

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Tribune Publishing, owner of the Chicago Tribune, has reaffirmed its backing for a buyout proposal from Alden Global Capital, but there’s still time for another offer.

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Tribune Publishing confirmed Monday that it no longer has a “superior proposal” involving Swiss billionaire Hansjörg Wyss and that its board continues to endorse a sale to Alden Global Capital.

A statement from the company, however, offered a slight hope to anyone trying to top Alden’s $17.25-a-share offer for the newspaper company, owner of the Chicago Tribune. Hotel magnate Stewart Bainum Jr. had enlisted Wyss in a joint effort to raise $680 million to cover an $18.50-per-share offer.

The company released text of a letter from Bainum, dated Saturday, confirming Wyss’ withdrawal while saying he hopes to find other partners. “I remain confident that there is significant interest in joining this effort and expect the necessary arrangements among one or more additional equity financing sources can be completed expeditiously,” Bainum told the board.

Tribune said it will “carefully consider any further developments” while it continues to recommend the Alden deal in the meantime. It has yet to schedule a shareholder vote to ratify any sale.

Bainum has gotten some support from wealthy buyers interested in particular titles. Sources have said he may have three or four weeks to submit a new offer.

Tribune Publishing owns nine large dailies. Wyss, who lives in Wyoming and supports environmental causes, was interested in controlling the Chicago Tribune, but sources said he became convinced it would cost too much to build up the paper’s staff for a national profile.

The NewsGuild-CWA labor union said the paper’s newsroom headcount has declined by 32% since November 2019, when Alden gained a foothold in the company.

Alden owns about 32% of Tribune Publishing. A sale must be approved by owners of two-thirds of the shares it does not have.

The New York hedge fund is known for buying newspapers and slashing editorial costs, leaving some communities without coverage.

Tribune said its board, because of Bainum’s lack of financing, “continues to recommend, and has not withdrawn, qualified or otherwise modified its recommendation, that stockholders of Tribune vote in favor of the approval of the Alden Merger Agreement.”

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