It’s official: Alden takes over the Chicago Tribune

The former Chicago Tribune headquarters at 435 N. Michigan Avenue. The newsroom relocated to a dumpy, industrial area. Makes sense given who now owns them.

Alden takes control, ending local ownership after more than 150 years 

In a move everyone saw coming, New York City-based hedge fund Alden Global Capital last Friday got the green light to take full ownership of Tribune Publishing

The Chicago Tribune – one of the papers involving in the Alden transaction, reported the deal officially closed late Monday night. This makes Alden now the second-largest owner of newspapers in the United States, only behind Gannett. Alden owns papers in Denver; San Jose, Ca.; Boston; St. Paul, Minn.; and Orange County, Ca., among others. The buyout price was $17.25 a share. 

Alden didn’t waste time making changes by firing Tribune Publishing CEO Terry Jiminez and installing Alden hedge fund president Heath Freeman in his place. 

The vote to convert Alden’s stake in Tribune Publishing from a third to full ownership came Friday when Los Angeles Times owner Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong (whose own paper is not involved in the deal) voted to abstain. 

Alden now takes over Tribune Publishing, who owns papers in New York City; Baltimore; Orlando; South Florida (Ft. Lauderdale); Hartford; Norfolk; Annapolis, Md., Allentown, Pa.; Newport News, Va.; and the aforementioned Tribune.

There was a plan for the Baltimore Sun to be sold to hotel magnate Stewart Bainum and convert it to a non-profit, but the proposal fell through. 

As you imagine, the deal was panned, including journalists at the affected papers. In Chicago, a protest was held outside the Tribune’s Freedom Center facilities a few days before the vote, urging the Tribune Publishing board to reject the deal. Alden had a reputation for cutting newsroom jobs, slashing resources, and eliminating newspapers – resulting in a loss of coverage in numerous areas. 

Even before Alden took up any stake in Tribune, the company was already making cutbacks, as you can plainly see in how their suburban newspapers were run – especially the once-prosperous Daily Southtown, who served the already under-served south suburbs. With Alden now calling the shots, the fear is coverage would be cut back even further. Alden bought the shares owned by Michael Ferro, who took over the Tribune until he was forced out.

Not everyone was in mourning. A right-wing blog run by a corrupt ex-Chicago police officer and critic of the local media offered a “glimmer of hope” Alden would do better a job by using the worst kind of title possible for his inane piece. The less said about this complete piece of shit, the better. 

You can trace the Tribune’s fall back to twenty years ago when the Tribune Co. took over the Los Angeles Times for around $8 billion, which included numerous newspapers, a profitable TV group, a top-rated Chicago radio station, several websites, and more. But it all came crashing down when Sam Zell purchased the company in 2007, taking it to bankruptcy a year later as an economic downturn took hold and the 2008 crash nearly wiped out everything. 

After Tribune came out of bankruptcy, the company sold off much of its non-core assets such as Career Builder and Cars.com, and split into two – Tribune Publishing and Tribune Media in order to get more “value”. In fact, splitting up TV-radio-newspaper conglomerates became more commonplace even as the FCC eliminated cross-ownership rules in 2017, but held up for years until the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the agency this year. But it came too little, too late for most media companies. 

What this turned out to be was breaking up the old Tribune Co. and selling them for parts- Tribune Media to Nexstar and now Tribune Publishing (foolishly named “tronc” at one point). Even the famed Tribune Tower the company was housed in for decades was sold to a real estate developer and turned into condos. And now, the last link to this once-grand company is now owned by a ruthless, out-of-town hedge fund. What a shame. 

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