Alternative bidders emerge for newspaper chain Tribune

FILE - In this Monday, April 25, 2016, file photo, Chicago Tribune and other newspapers are displayed at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport, in Chicago. A group of alternative bidders is emerging, in late March 2021, for newspaper chain Tribune Publishing, which had agreed to a $630 million deal with hedge fund Alden Global Capital. (AP Photo/Kiichiro Sato, File) (Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistribu)

A group of alternative bidders is emerging for newspaper chain Tribune Publishing, which had agreed to a $630 million acquisition by hedge fund Alden Global Capital.

Over the weekend, The New York Times reported that a billionaire who lives in Wyoming, Hansjörg Wyss, was joining a bid for Tribune with Maryland hotel mogul Stewart Bainum. The Times reported that both would commit up to $100 million to the $650 million bid. The Wall Street Journal reported Monday that Mason Slaine, a Tribune investor who has previously said he wanted to buy the Tribune's Florida papers, is also willing to commit $100 million in financing. In an email, Slaine confirmed his interest in joining the bid and owning the papers but said it depended on "diligence and terms.”

The Tribune board has endorsed Alden's offer, but allowed Bainum to pursue financing for his bid.

Alden, which owns one of the country's largest newspaper chains including the Boston Herald, the Denver Post and the San Jose Mercury News, became Tribune Publishing’s largest shareholder in 2019 and now holds a 32% stake.

Tribune journalists have decried the Alden deal. The hedge fund is known for slashing costs and shrinking newsrooms at the newspapers it acquires in order to squeeze out profits, notable moves even in an industry characterized by cost cuts and layoffs. The unions at Tribune papers have pushed for alternative buyers for the company’s papers.

Bainum, the chairman of Choice Hotels International, initially had a nonbinding agreement to form a nonprofit to buy Baltimore Sun Media for $65 million as part of Alden's deal for Tribune. But negotiations over the terms faltered and he made his own offer for the whole company.

He would reportedly keep the Sun as part of the group bid, with Wyss interested in the Chicago Tribune and Slaine in the Orlando Sentinel and the Sun Sentinel in Fort Lauderdale.

Tribune and Alden did not reply to questions. A spokesman for the special committee of Tribune's board that recommended the Alden bid declined to comment. Messages left for Wyss through his foundation and Bainum through his hotel company were not returned.