Tribune Publishing adds board members in pact with largest shareholder

Deal with Alden Global Capital limits its say over the company through mid-2020.

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Chicago Tribune newspapers on a sales rack.

Tribune Publishing said Monday its largest shareholder, Alden Global Capital, has agreed not to enlarge its stake or try to gain control of the company through the middle of next year.

AP file

Tribune Publishing said Monday its largest shareholder, Alden Global Capital, has agreed not to enlarge its stake or act with others to gain control of the company through the middle of next year. It also added two Alden representatives to its board.

The so-called standstill agreement bars Alden from owning more than a third of the company, owner of the Chicago Tribune, through June 30, 2020. Through a bulk sale last month with former Tribune Chairman Michael Ferro Jr. and separate transactions, Alden has reported a 32% stake in Tribune Publishing. The New York-based hedge fund is known for acquiring newspapers, then cutting their staffs and selling their assets.

With the new board members, Tribune’s board grows to eight members from six. The standstill agreement obligates Alden to support other company-nominated directors and bars it from soliciting shareholder votes on any initiative through June 30. The prohibition would limit Alden’s influence through the company’s next annual meeting, expected in the spring.

The new board members are Dana Goldsmith Needleman and Christopher Minnetian. Needleman, 47, is a principal of The Cogent Funds, a real estate investment firm, and serves on the board of Fred’s Inc., a retailer Alden controls and has taken into bankruptcy, closing most of its stores. Minnetian, 50, is president of Smith Management, a family investment firm, and serves on the board of MNG Enterprises, through which Alden runs its newspapers.

Tribune Chairman David Dreier issued a statement welcoming the Alden representatives while also indicating concern about the hedge fund’s business model. “The entire board believes that quality journalism is the company’s driving principle as we serve our communities and our shareholders. We look forward to working together to create new company successes,” Dreier said.

Tribune’s other newspapers include the New York Daily News, the Baltimore Sun and the Orlando Sentinel.

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