Tribune shareholders approve takeover by Alden Global

Shareholders of Tribune Publishing, one of the country’s largest newspaper chains, today approved a takeover by hedge fund Alden Global Capital.

Alden, which owned one-third of Tribune, now takes full control of the Chicago Tribune, Baltimore Sun and other Tribune papers in a deal worth roughly $630 million. Through its Digital First Media chain, Alden also owns the Boston Herald, Denver Post and San Jose Mercury News.

This is just the latest acquisition of a newspaper company by a financial firm. The collapse of print advertising as readers migrate to digital publications has rocked the traditional newspaper business. Publishers have shut down more than 2,000 papers over the past 15 years and half of newsroom jobs have disappeared. Investment firm owners are often criticized for valuing profits over the mission of local journalism, and Alden is no exception.

The deal had drawn opposition from many of the company’s journalists at papers in an unusual spate of employee activism.

They set up rallies, tried to find local buyers and begged for a rescue in their own newspapers. They had rooted for a higher bid from hotel mogul Stewart Bainum in the belief that it would be better for local journalism, although the bid never came to fruition. They lobbied Patrick Soon-Shiong, the owner of the Los Angeles Times and Tribune’s No. 2 shareholder, to vote no and stop the deal.

Soon-Shiong abstained from the vote, a spokeswoman said today.

Alden became Tribune’s largest shareholder in 2019. The union representing Tribune’s journalists says the hedge fund’s cost cuts have already led to shrinking newsrooms and closed offices.

“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.” said Heath Freeman, president of Alden, in a statement.