Tronc plan to buy Sun-Times may face competition

CHICAGO — At least two outside parties have shown interest in buying the Chicago Sun-Times, possibly scuttling what was thought to be a done deal with the owner of the Chicago Tribune, a newspaper guild representative told POLITICO.

David Roeder, a consultant with the Chicago News Guild, which represents the newsrooms of the Sun-Times and the Chicago Reader, said that at least two other interested groups of buyers have reached out to the guild and expressed an interest in buying the news organization.

“There are two who have contacted the guild. And there may be others who we haven’t talked with,” Roeder told POLITICO on Monday. “I don’t know where they are in the process.” Still, Roeder said he believes a deadline, originally set for this week, was likely to be extended.

Roeder said he could not comment on the identities of the possible competing purchasers.

On May 15, Tronc Inc., the owner of the Tribune, announced that it had entered into a nonbinding letter of intent to acquire Wrapports Holdings, which owns the Sun-Times.

Wrapports, which also owns the Chicago Reader, was previously headed by Michael Ferro. After Ferro purchased a controlling stake of the Tribune in 2016, he donated his interest in Wrapports to a charitable trust.

After Wrapports publicly disclosed its discussions with Tronc, the Dept. of Justice’s Antitrust Division released a statement saying it was investigating Tronc’s intended acquisition of its chief competitor, the Sun-Times. The DOJ also welcomed outside bids.

Representatives from Wrapports and Tronc have said they intend to run the papers independently, but journalists remain skeptical.

The guild has resisted a sale to Tronc, and placed a half-page ad in Crain’s Chicago Business, urging other buyers to come forward, Roeder said. It also started an online petition and has begun social media messaging: “#nonewsmonopoly.”

“Most people at the Sun-Times and the Reader don’t want to see the sale to tronc,” he said.

Wrapports earlier this month said it had made efforts to sell to other media organizations, but that those organizations had taken a pass on the purchase.

“After those efforts were exhausted, it became clear that a business combination with tronc made the most sense, especially since tronc and Wrapports already have some business ties,” the Wrapports statement said. “For example, the Chicago Tribune has handled all of the Sun-Times’ printing and distribution for the past several years. A combination of the companies helps keep the Sun-Times active as a separate voice.”

A DOJ spokesman on Monday declined to comment on whether other bidders have come forward. A Tronc representative could not be reached for comment.

The Chicago Tribune has long had the largest paid circulation in the state, with the Sun-Times coming up second. Like others in the industry, both have faced steady declines in print circulation.

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