Sources tell WTTW the philanthropic organizations have talked about forming a nonprofit entity to buy a controlling stake in the Chicago-based company but have been more focused on facilitating discussions between potential deep-pocketed investors.
The news marks the first time nonprofits of any size have ever actively discussed taking over a major media entity in Chicago. Earlier, Swiss billionaire Hansjorg Wyss had considered buying the Chicago Tribune as part of a broader $680 million plan to buy and break up the media company and run the Chicago newspaper as a nonprofit, but Wyss walked away from the plan earlier this month. His erstwhile partner in that bid, Maryland hotel magnate Stewart Bainum Jr., is believed to still be pursuing his bid to buy Tribune’s Baltimore Sun property along with a handful of other East Coast properties and run them separately.
Tribune Publishing’s board is expected to vote on Alden’s $630 million plan to buy the entire company, a bid that a special board committee formed to review buyout offers has previously recommended shareholders should approve. That is an outcome several current and former Tribune journalists have tried for months to prevent, personally courting deep-pocketed investors in an effort to outbid Alden, a hedge fund with a reputation for buying media properties and cutting them deeply.
Kristen Mack, communications director for the MacArthur Foundation told WTTW News in a statement, “We are not in talks to buy the Chicago Tribune or the Tribune company. As a long-time funder of independent journalism and media, we care about news and information and are working to strengthen American democracy by ensuring people remain informed and engaged.”
Representatives for the Pritzker Traubert Foundation, the Ford Foundation, and Tribune Publishing’s board of directors did not return messages to WTTW seeking comment.
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