The possibility that the
Bloomberg and Reuters, citing unnamed sources, reported this week that Chicago-based
Several investors expressed interest in Tribune's newspaper holdings, which include the
It's too early to speculate what might happen, said
Marks said Oaktree does not comment on its individual investments and wouldn't say what its exit strategy might be regarding Tribune. "We are just getting into the ownership position, and it's far too early to talk about getting out," he said.
In an interview with the Chicago Tribune in October, Marks said it was unlikely that Tribune will make any immediate divestitures, although, he added, that wouldn't be surprising if that happened a year down the road.
Big-city newspapers have struggled in recent years with the recent recession and increased competition online for readers and advertisers. Many responded by charging for access to their websites — The Sun, for example, has more than 26,000 digital subscribers. Its average print circulation exceeds 290,000 on Sundays and 165,500 on weekdays.
The Sun is part of the Baltimore Sun Media Group, which includes 17 community newspapers, nine companion websites and seven magazines. The company also boosted revenue by expanding its commercial printing and distribution operation, which handles a number of other publications.
Plummeting newspaper prices are a lure for investors — and for some potential buyers, a purchase would be deeply personal.
Cordish said he's a newspaper person and reads at least five a day.
"The Paper very much needs to be in the hands of local ownership," Cordish wrote in an email. "We would be interested. … The City and Region MUST have a strong vibrant paper of its own."
Farther afield, the publisher of the
Register Publisher Aaron Kushner, who also serves as CEO of parent company
Kushner added: "We will only step in if we are confident after diligence that we can bring our contrarian approach and belief system to Baltimore and successfully reverse the downward trends in newsroom staff, circulation and advertising. That is a monumental challenge, an affirmative answer to which is far from certain."
Tribune and The Sun declined to comment about the sale reports.
One longtime suitor of The Sun is a loose group of potential investors organized by the
Ted Venetoulis, a publisher and former
"But they've not indicated … if the paper's for sale or what their next step is," he said. "At least not to us. Maybe to Rupert."
The Washington Post Co. also declined to comment on any potential interest in buying The Sun.
And calls to
Venetoulis, who once owned weekly newspapers such as the Towson Times and who still works in publishing, cautioned that there's no guarantee a local group would purchase the newspaper even if Tribune decides to sell it individually. Papers across the country are experimenting with new business models — from online subscription fees to less-than-daily publication— but no one knows yet what will work, he said.
"There may well be continued interest in bringing the paper under local ownership, but there's not certainty in that because of the nature — the new nature — of the business," Venetoulis said.
A leader of The Sun's largest employee union also pointed to partial employee ownership as a possibility. The Portland Newspaper Guild sought investor groups to buy the Portland Press Herald and Maine Sunday Telegram in 2008, ultimately negotiating an employee stock ownership plan to get an ownership stake.
The guild held a strategy meeting Wednesday to prepare for Tribune's exit from bankruptcy — expected by the end of the month — and the possibility of a sale.
Larry Grimes, president of W.B. Grimes & Co., a Gaithersburg media broker, said he thought The Sun's "pretty good circulation" and dominant position among local media might bring interest from private equity firms.
Still, there's value and then there's value, which is why he suggested Tribune sell its papers' real estate holdings separately.
"The real estate is worth a lot more than the papers," Grimes said.
Baltimore Sun reporter Eileen Ambrose contributed to this article.