Alden Global Capital LLC, which is already Tribune’s largest shareholder with a 32% stake, has expressed interest in acquiring the shares of the publishing company it doesn’t own already for $14.25 a share, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The shares closed Wednesday at $12.79. The offer was made Dec. 14.
The Wall Street Journal first reported Alden’s plans late Wednesday.
Tribune has a market value of roughly $470 million after a yearslong slide as the prospects for local newspapers dim. Its shares are little changed this year and were up 8.8% premarket on low volume.
A deal would have far-reaching implications for an industry beset by sharp declines in revenue over the past 20 years that have led to a wave of consolidation and cost cuts. Between 2008 and 2019, the industry shed 51% of its newsroom jobs, according to the Pew Research Center.
Tribune Publishing, one of the largest newspaper chains in the country by circulation, publishes nine larger-market daily papers, including the Baltimore Sun, Orlando Sentinel and Hartford Courant.
Alden controls MediaNews Group, a private company that owns some 60 daily newspapers around the country, including the Denver Post, San Jose Mercury News and Orange County Register. The hedge fund has a reputation for making deep cost cuts at titles it acquires.
In July, Alden cemented a firmer position on the Tribune board, taking control of a third seat out of seven in exchange for an agreement to extend a standstill agreement that prevents the hedge fund from increasing its stake or making a hostile bid until after June 2021.
Consequently, any deal to increase the stake would likely need signoff from Tribune or a significant portion of shareholders unaffiliated with Alden. The company’s second-largest shareholder, with about 25%, is Patrick Soon-Shiong, a billionaire biotech investor who in 2018 bought the Los Angeles Times from Tribune for $500 million.
With the industry reeling from the economic impact stemming from the coronavirus pandemic, Tribune has laid off dozens of reporters and closed many of its newsrooms entirely to save on real-estate costs. Earlier in December, Tribune agreed to sell its e-commerce business, Best Reviews, to Nexstar Media Group Inc. for $160 million.
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Appeared in the December 31, 2020, print edition as ‘Fund Seeks to Fully Buy Tribune Chain.’