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Tribune Publishing gets bids from McClatchy, AIM Media and Donerail

Tribune Publishing gets bids from McClatchy, AIM Media and Donerail
Tribune Publishing owns the Chicago Tribune and a number of other newspapers. (John J. Kim / Chicago Tribune)

Investment firm Donerail Group and newspaper publishers McClatchy Co. and AIM Media have submitted bids for Tribune Publishing Co., according to people familiar with the matter.

Tribune’s board is scheduled to meet early next week after bids for the assets came due Thursday, said the people, who asked to not be identified because the matter isn’t public.

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Representatives for Tribune Publishing and McClatchy declined to comment. Representatives for Donerail and AIM didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Potential buyers have been circling Tribune Publishing for months. The Chicago company, which changed its name back from Tronc Inc. last month, owns the Chicago Tribune, the New York Daily News, the Baltimore Sun, the Hartford Courant and other publications. It sold the Los Angeles Times earlier this year.

McClatchy is offering some stock as part of its bid, which would give Tribune Publishing shareholders an interest in the combined business, according to the people familiar with the bids. McClatchy, which owns 30 newspapers, including the Miami Herald, the Sacramento Bee and the Kansas City Star, expects that it could generate cost savings by combining with Tribune Publishing, they said.

Donerail, backed by Starboard Value veteran William Wyatt, could sell some of Tribune Publishing’s newspaper assets to individual buyers, Nieman Lab media analyst Ken Doctor said in August.

AIM Media, based in McAllen, Texas, owns daily and weekly newspapers throughout the state, including the Monitor and the Coastal Current, according to its website. The company is run by Jeremy Halbreich, a former chairman and chief executive of Sun-Times Media in Chicago.

Tribune Publishing has been beset by controversy since Michael Ferro became its largest shareholder and took over as chairman in early 2016. He stepped down in March, hours before Fortune magazine detailed two women’s sexual harassment accusations against him.

In June, Tribune Publishing completed the $500-million sale of the Los Angeles Times to billionaire Patrick Soon-Shiong.

Soon-Shiong, Tribune Publishing’s second-largest shareholder, said in July that he would like to see the company sell more assets if it gets “the right price.”

Gannett Co. terminated talks two years ago to buy Tribune Publishing, a once-powerful publisher that has been battling a declining market since spinning off in 2014 from Tribune Media Co.

Tribune Publishing stock fell 1.9% on Friday to $15.42 a share, giving the company a market value of about $550 million. Its shares are down 12.3% this year.

2:30 p.m.: This article was updated with Tribune Publishing’s closing stock price.

This article was originally published at 12:40 p.m.

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