A reporter from The Chicago Sun-Times made a public plea in his paper Wednesday for someone to save its competitor, the Chicago Tribune, from being acquired by hedge fund Alden Global Capital.
“This is an odd thing to do in the pages of the Chicago Sun-Times, but I’m asking someone to buy the Chicago Tribune,” wrote wrote Andy Grimm, a Sun-Times reporter and president of the Chicago News Guild union that represents journalists at the Sun-Times and the Tribune.
“No, don’t rush to a news rack or start a subscription. Buy the entire newspaper, lock, stock and ink barrels.”
Shareholders of Tribune Publishing, which owns the Chicago Tribune, the Baltimore Sun, and many other newspapers around the U.S., are scheduled to vote on May 21 whether to accept Alden’s bid to acquire the company.
Grimm, along with other journalists and industry analysts, say Alden’s ultimate goal is not to invest in the Tribune or local journalism but to extract as much value from the paper’s assets as possible.
“Alden is widely regarded as the worst of a class of owners who regard newspapers as assets to be stripped, with profits put ahead of providing readers with the news and information a community needs to function,” Grimm wrote. The president of Alden, Heath Freeman, has denied similar accusations.
Baltimore hotel billionaire Stewart Bainum has made a separate offer to buy Tribune Publishing that could save the Chicago Tribune from Alden ownership.
However, Bainum’s plan is to donate the Baltimore Sun and other Maryland papers to a non-profit and then sell the Chicago Tribune and the other papers with similar plans to save them.
“But, so far, he has found no one in Chicago willing to take the Tribune off his hands,” Grimm wrote. “I can understand why Chicago’s ample collection of billionaires and millionaires might be gun-shy. Several members of their tax bracket have dabbled in Tribune ownership, and either lost money or damaged their reputations.”
“With all due respect to those former Tribune owners, you did it wrong,” Grimm added.
Several other large-city papers have been purchased by wealthy investors, Grimm added, including the Boston Globe, The Minneapolis Star-Tribune, the Los Angeles Times, the Philadelphia Inquirer, and the Salt Lake City Tribune.
The Chicago Tribune today is “in much better shape than any of those papers before they were saved by local owners,” Grimm wrote.
“As the clock ticks down on this shareholder vote, the silence from Chicago’s business class has been deafening…” he added “It’s time for somebody to buy the Chicago Tribune. Will it be someone who cares about our city?”