Tribune Publishing announced Tuesday evening that Denver Post owners Alden Global Capital have become its major shareholder, sparking fears from Tribune newspaper guilds that their presence will have a negative effect on their newsrooms.
According to Tribune, Alden purchased 9,071,529 shares, or 25.2% of the company, from Merrick Ventures and Michael W. Ferro, Jr. for $13 per share. Ferro had stepped down as head of Tribune Publishing, then known as Tronc, in 2018 shortly before Fortune Magazine published an expose in which two women accused him of sexual harassment. Alden will have two members on Tribune’s board, expanding it to eight total board members.
“The Tribune Publishing Board of Directors looks forward to working with Alden to enhance our company’s value as the company continues to provide valuable journalism for our customers and communities,” said David Dreier, Chairman of the Board. “Tribune is a leader in each of our eight markets providing quality, locally focused journalism. Our board believes that solid journalism enhances shareholder value and that will continue to be our driving principle.”
But the Alden deal has triggered protests at several newspapers over their cost-cutting tactics. In May 2018, members of the Denver Newspaper Guild picketed outside the Denver Post production facility after Alden announced dozens of layoffs to the paper and blocked the publication of editorials. Even just today, the San Jose Mercury News Guild staged its own protest against Alden, accusing the company of siphoning away profits and assets from its newspapers to fund ventures unrelated to journalism.
In a statement released shortly after Alden’s share purchase was announced, the Chicago Tribune Guild said it was “deeply concerned” about the move.
“Alden has a well-established history of harming media institutions and journalists,” the guild warned. “We believe in journalism as a public good…We know the value of our work and we will defend it fiercely.”
The San Jose Mercury News Guild, part of the MediaNewsGroup owned by Alden, responded to the statement on Twitter with a political cartoon:
— San Jose Mercury News Guild (@mercnewsguild) November 20, 2019
In an internal email to staff, Tribune Publishing CEO Tim Knight described the deal as a “private transaction” between Ferro and Alden and downplayed any changes. “A change of investor, even a large investor, will not have a direct impact on how we conduct our daily activities,” Knight wrote.
Headquartered in Chicago, Tribune Publishing operates local media businesses including the Chicago Tribune, New York Daily News, The Baltimore Sun, Orlando Sentinel, South Florida’s Sun-Sentinel, Virginia’s Daily Press and The Virginian-Pilot, The Morning Call of Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania and the Hartford Courant.
As previously mentioned, Alden’s MediaNewsGroup owns the Denver Post, the San Jose Mercury News, the Oakland Tribune, and a slew of other daily newspapers and weeklies, mostly in California.
Lawrence Yee contributed to this report.