Swiss billionaire Wyss joins the control of the Tribune group
Swiss billionaire Hansjörg Wyss has made a $ 100 million contribution to the purchase of Tribune Publishing, and has joined forces with a Maryland hotel mogul to raise funds for the coverage of one of the largest US newspaper companies.
Wyss has teamed up with Stewart Bainum, president of Choice Hotels, to bid to buy the Tribune for $ 650 million this month in hopes of directing the nonprofit Chicago Tribune, New York Daily News and Baltimore Sun newspapers.
Wyss ’entry is the latest twist in the fight to control the Tribune. Alden, a New York-based hedge fund known for its acquisition of Latin American newspapers, made a deal last month to buy a $ 630 million media group.
Under the deal, Tribune would sell the Baltimore Sun and two other Maryland newspapers to Bainum for about $ 65 million. However, in recent weeks Bainum and Alden could not agree on the details of the deal, and Bainum pushed for its own offering for the entire company.
In recent days Bainum has been looking for investors to match its offer for the entire Tribune. He plans to invest $ 100 million of his money, while Wysse has agreed to make a $ 100 million contribution and can also provide debt if needed, according to people familiar with the deal. These people said that Bainum has also created the interests of banks to provide debt financing.
Wyss, the interest of the Swiss-American entrepreneur who enriched the production of medical devices, will give the heart to the journalists of the Tribune as an existential struggle against their involvement in the business of financial groups.
After decades of declining revenues, struggling U.S. newspapers have become targets for hedge funds and private capital.
It has been one of Alden’s main consolidators, making profound cost reductions to increase profitability in the headlines. Publication staff have called the company a “capitalist vulture,” and, for example, Democrat Chuck Schumer, the head of the Senate majority, has argued that the media fund has a negative impact on the management of local newspapers in American democracy.
Tribune unions have launched a campaign against Alden last year to buy their papers in search of wealthy locals, which has helped Wysse spark interest in buying the company from the New York Times. “I don’t want to see another newspaper to increase the actual number of Americans going down the river,” he said.
Wyss and Bainum eventually plan to find investors for Tribune’s newspapers with the goal of turning it into a nonprofit.
Despite Bainum’s efforts, the Tribune’s management last week advised shareholders to vote on Alden’s offer after concluding that it offered greater certainty than any other option, according to a regulatory dossier.
In order for Alden to take over, at least two-thirds of the Tribune’s shareholders must be authorized except Alden. That could leave the Tribune’s fate in the hands of pharmaceutical billionaire Patrick Soon-Shiong and the owner of the Los Angeles Times newspaper, which has about 24 percent of the Tribune – enough participation to complicate Alden’s plans.