Hotel billionaire willing to plunk down more of his own cash in bid for Tribune Publishing

Stewart Bainum Jr.’s latest move comes weeks after his short-lived partnership with a Swiss billionaire ended abruptly after the pair made a $680 million play for Tribune Publishing, which owns the Chicago Tribune.

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The chairman of Maryland-based Choice Hotels International, Stewart Bainum Jr. has been searching for investors for an ownership group that can rival Alden Global Capital, the hedge fund that currently owns roughly 32% of Tribune Publishing and has submitted a $635 million offer to buy it outright.

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A hotel executive looking to purchase Tribune Publishing is offering to put up more of his own cash as he seeks other investors for the deal, a source said Thursday. 

Stewart Bainum Jr. is now willing to use up to $200 million of his own money and tap another $100 million in debt financing, according to the source, who said Bainum has told a Tribune special committee about the new plan.

The chairman of Maryland-based Choice Hotels International, Bainum has been searching for investors for an ownership group that can rival Alden Global Capital, the hedge fund that currently owns roughly 32% of Tribune Publishing and has submitted a $635 million offer to buy it outright. Alden has bought up financially troubled newspapers around the country and has faced sharp criticism for slashing news coverage.

Bloomberg first reported that Bainum is willing to up his ante in the bid for Tribune Publishing.

Tribune Publishing didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. Alden couldn’t immediately be reached.

Bainum’s latest move comes just weeks after his short-lived partnership with Swiss billionaire Hansjörg Wyss ended abruptly after the pair made a $680 million play for Tribune Publishing, which owns the Chicago Tribune, Baltimore Sun and other newspapers. Bainum previously had an agreement with the hedge fund to acquire the Baltimore Sun for a nonprofit, but it was scrapped amid disagreement over details.

Wyss, who put up roughly $500 million in the ill-fated deal, sought to help Bainum keep Tribune Publishing out of Alden’s hands and to break up the company, selling its papers to investors wanting local titles. But Wyss, the founder of medical device maker Synthes, pulled out after deciding he’d have to spend too much to elevate the Chicago Tribune to a national role, sources said at the time. 

Under the gun, Bainum has continued to seek deep-pocketed, civic-minded partners to prevent Alden’s takeover.

Contributing: David Roeder

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