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April 15, 2021

Hartford Courant owner Tribune Publishing stays with Alden purchase deal, for now

hartford courant credit union HBJ Photo | Joe Cooper The Hartford Courant’s former headquarters at 285 Broad St.

Tribune Publishing Co., the parent company of the Hartford Courant and several other U.S. newspapers, is again counseling its investors to vote in favor of a proposed acquisition by private equity firm Alden Global Capital, only weeks after it acknowledged that a competing bid could ultimately result in a superior offer.

In documents filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on Wednesday, the Chicago-based media group said the terms of its merger agreement with Alden, in place since February, are fair and in the best interests of the company and its shareholders.

Hotel executive Stewart Bainum and Swiss billionaire Hansjorg Wyss have offered to buy Tribune for $18.50 per share, higher than Alden’s price of $17.25 per share, and Tribune officials said earlier this month that they would seriously consider the rival bid.

But the special committee guiding Tribune’s merger decisions has, at least for now, lined up behind the Alden deal, noting that the agreement put forward by Bainum and Wyss is non-binding and could take longer to complete than a transaction with Alden, which is already Tribune’s single largest shareholder.

Also weighing against the Bainum-Wyss venture is their plan to finance a portion of the purchase price with the company’s cash on hand.

Wednesday’s filing is preliminary, and Tribune has not yet scheduled a shareholders meeting for a vote on the Alden deal.

Bainum, chairman of Choice Hotels International, initially planned to acquire only the Tribune-owned Baltimore Sun through a nonprofit entity he controls, the Sunlight for All Institute. After negotiations involving that deal stalled, however, Bainum made an offer for all of the Tribune publications.

Bainum’s representatives have alluded to moving the company and its publications toward a not-for-profit model, according to documents filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

Wyss, the founder and former president of medical device manufacturing company Synthes USA, joined Bainum’s bid last month.

In addition to the Hartford Courant and The Baltimore Sun, Tribune Publishing also owns the Chicago Tribune, New York Daily News, Florida’s Sun Sentinel and Orlando Sentinel, Virginia’s Daily Press and Virginian-Pilot, and The Morning Call of eastern Pennsylvania.


 

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