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Tribune says new $681-million proposal likely to top Alden’s

Chicago Tribune and other newspapers are displayed at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport.
A group of alternative bidders emerged in late March for newspaper chain Tribune Publishing, which had agreed to a $630-million deal with hedge fund Alden Global Capital.
(Kiichiro Sato/AP)

Tribune Publishing Co. will talk with a group that has offered $680.8 million for the newspaper publisher, saying it will likely beat out an accepted $634.8-million takeover offer from hedge fund Alden Global Capital.

A nonbinding bid of $18.50 a share in cash from Newslight, as Choice Hotels International Inc. Chairman Stewart Bainum Jr. and Swiss billionaire Hansjoerg Wyss have named their group, is likely to lead to a superior proposal under the terms of the Alden merger agreement, Tribune said in a statement Monday.

Alden’s offer of $17.25 a share remains in effect, but Tribune can now engage in negotiations with Newslight and offer it due-diligence materials, the newspaper company said.

Tribune shares rose as much as 2.6% to the Newslight offer price, $18.50, in New York trading Monday.

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Alden, which already owns 32% of the publisher of the Chicago Tribune and New York Daily News, agreed in February to pay about $430 million for the shares it didn’t own. The pact included selling the Baltimore Sun to a charity formed by Bainum, but that deal later fell apart and Bainum decided to try to acquire all of Tribune instead.

Tech investor Mason P. Slaine has said he intends to put about $100 million into the Newslight bid, having tried several times before to buy two Tribune newspapers in his home state of Florida: the Orlando Sentinel and the Fort Lauderdale-based South Florida Sun Sentinel.

The Wall Street Journal reported Sunday that Tribune was leaning toward the Bainum-Wyss offer.

The Los Angeles Times and San Diego Union-Tribune were part of Tribune Publishing until 2018, when Los Angeles biotech entrepreneur Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong and his wife, Michele, rescued the two papers in a $500-million deal. The Soon-Shiong family purchase returned The Times to local control after more than a decade of upheaval, and steep cost-cutting, while under Tribune Publishing‘s stewardship.

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Soon-Shiong retained his stake in Tribune Publishing and currently is the company’s second-largest shareholder with 24%. He acquired his initial interest in Tribune Publishing at $15 a share in 2016.

Alden Global Capital’s proposed takeover of Tribune hinges on receiving Soon-Shiong’s support as well as the approval of another large Tribune shareholder, Mason Slaine, who owns about 8% of the company. Holders of two-thirds of Tribune common stock not owned by Alden must approve the sale.

Times staff writer Meg James contributed to this report.


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