Tribune Publishing said that hedge fund Alden Global Capital’s bid for the company, valued at $630 million, was approved Friday at a virtual shareholders meeting, as had been expected.
The merger of Tribune’s nine metros with Alden’s MediaNews Group and its roughly 60 dailies, to be completed by June 30, will create the nation’s second-largest newspaper chain after Gannett’s. Tribune’s outlets are in Chicago and various eastern states; MediaNews Group’s in Denver and California. That will give the combined company a national footprint.
Alden, which has built a reputation as one of the newspaper industry’s most aggressive cost-cutters, became Tribune Publishing’s largest shareholder in November 2019 and owns a 31.3% stake. It reached an agreement in February to buy the rest of the company at $17.25 per share. The merger required approval from two-thirds of Tribune Publishing’s other shareholders under Delaware General Corporation Law.
Launched in 2007, Alden owns about 200 publications through an operating company known as MediaNews Group. Its larger newspapers include the Denver Post, San Jose (California) Mercury News and the St. Paul (Minnesota) Pioneer Press.
In addition to the Chicago Tribune, Tribune Publishing owns The Baltimore Sun; the Hartford (Connecticut) Courant; the Orlando (Florida) Sentinel; the South Florida Sun Sentinel; the New York Daily News; the Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Maryland; The Morning Call in Allentown, Pennsylvania; the Daily Press in Newport News, Virginia; and The Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk, Virginia.
Tribune Publishing union members held rallies and lobbied Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong, the second-largest Tribune shareholder and owner of the Los Angeles Times, to help finance the buyout or use his shares to block Alden’s bid.
Soon-Shiong did not cast a vote, his spokesperson Hillary Manning said.
A proxy statement filed by Tribune said Soon-Shiong’s vote in favor of the transaction was required. Sources confirmed that Friday that Soon-Shiong did not check any of the three boxes — “for,” “against,” or “abstain” — on his ballot. The Chicago Tribune separately reported that, per ballot instructions, non-votes would be considered votes in favor of the deal.
Alden offered $17.25 a share in cash, making Soon-Shiong’s Tribune stake worth about $150 million.
“Local newspaper brands and operations are the engines that power trusted local news in communities across the United States,” said Heath Freeman, president of Alden Global Capital in a statement. “The purchase of Tribune reaffirms our commitment to the newspaper industry and our focus on getting publications to a place where they can operate sustainably over the long term.”