As the The bidding war for Tribune Publishing heats upInvestor groups tacitly form loyalties on the sidelines in the hope of cracking any newsagents that are likely to be sold in the process.
The latest group to appear as potential buyers for part of the publishing house behind the Chicago Tribune, the New York Daily News, the Baltimore Sun and six other daily newspapers has its eye on the Hartford Courant, sources said.
The group of roughly eight wealthy business executives from the Connecticut area held a brainstorming meeting Monday afternoon to save their home paper, which has its roots in a weekly newspaper founded in 1764 that is older than the nation itself.
The meeting came shortly after Tribune announced that hotel mogul Stewart Bainum’s team of billionaires and Swiss-born investor Hansjörg Wyss could examine Tribune’s books with a view to making a competing bid for the already-approved newspaper giant sold to the hedge fund Alden Global Capital.
If Bainum and Wyss successfully complete their $ 680.8 million cash offer of $ 18.50 per share, they are expected to attempt to hold onto some papers, including the Chicago Tribune and the Baltimore Sun, and the rest for sale.
Of the publishing giant’s nine daily newspapers, only the 101-year-old New York Daily News seems to have no date for the dance, as apparently no known buyers have spoken about purchase plans – although supermarket mogul John Catsimatidis told The Post about it he might be interested.
Of course, anyone looking to pounce on a tribune paper will have to wait for the Bainum / Wyss group, which made their offer through their Newslight unit, to complete due diligence and either agree to a deal or go away.
If they choose the latter, they can buy Alden Tribune for $ 17.25 per share, a deal that values the company at $ 630 million.
In either case, any bid must be for the entire company, not minor matters, said a source close to the Directors’ Special Committee for Tribune, which advises the board. This means that all local title applicants will not be able to see actual financial data until a preliminary agreement has been reached – either with Alden or Newslight.
Newslight’s due diligence is expected to take “at least two weeks – maybe a little longer,” said a source close to the situation.
“Hopefully we will get the opportunity to place bids,” said a potential Hartford Group investor.
“It was a question of what we need and how we get there,” he told Media Ink. He said investor reasons for joining the group ranged from civic thinking to stock market profits that need a parking space to offset capital gains .
The Hartford Courant is among the tribune newspapers that no longer have a newsroom, which avoids real estate costs. And even before the pandemic, the Courant had outsourced its printing to a plant in Massachusetts.
“Tribune has not invested a lot of capital so what kind of investment is required to be successful in the future,” said that person.
According to sources, they expect Hartford to sell for more than $ 30 million to $ 40 million. A group led by Gary Lutin is said to be willing to pay for the Allentown Morning Call, but less than the $ 65 million Bainum originally announced willing to pay to the Baltimore Sun and several smaller Maryland newspapers, too buy, including the Capital Gazette.
Bainum’s original plan was to buy Alden’s Maryland papers if their offer was successful. But then he teamed up Wyss to buy the whole of the Schebang.
Previously, a group from AIM Media led by Jeremy Halbreich was in the mix with the support of private equity firm TriveCapital, which, according to sources, was around $ 154 million behind Alden’s offer. The Halbreich bid would have paid only $ 15 per share.
Halbreich has been looking for Tribune before and partnered with investor Will Wyatt in 2019 to try to buy the publisher to destroy it and sell local newspapers. It was speculated at the time that his ultimate target was the chain’s flagship newspaper in Chicago.
If Halbreich kept an eye on the Chicago Tribune again, it could put him in competition with Wyss, the medical device billionaire who has also said he would be interested in owning the Chicago daily.
In all newspapers in the Tribune lineup, local bidders are waiting in the wings, with the exception of the Daily News. In Florida, Tribune’s third largest shareholder, Mason Slaine announced plans to purchase the Orlando Sentinel and the Fort Lauderdale-based South Florida Sun Sentinel. And at least one other potential applicant is said to be interested in the Orlando Sun.
Keeping the Daily News in the Dark: Pension obligations are estimated at around $ 100 million owed to press officials, drivers and some longtime journalists.
Catsimatidis, the supermarket mogul behind Gristedes and D’Agostino, initially said he might be interested in taking a look after missing a chance to buy it from then owner Mort Zuckerman a few years ago. But so far he has remained on the sidelines.
Tribune took over the New York tabloid’s pension obligations, but paid only $ 1 for the newspaper itself in 2017. This time no other potential bidders have emerged.