Hotel Mogul Bainum Prepares to Raise Tribune Takeover Offer
Stewart Bainum is making a third try to keep the newspaper chain away from the hedge fund Alden Global Capital, which is poised to be the company’s next owner.,
Maryland hotel mogul continues his quest for Tribune Publishing as time runs out.
- April 30, 2021, 11:57 a.m. ET
With time running out, Stewart W. Bainum Jr. is making a renewed effort to buy Tribune Publishing, the newspaper chain that agreed in February to sell itself to its largest shareholder, the hedge fund Alden Global Capital.
Mr. Bainum, a Maryland hotel mogul, notified Tribune Publishing on Wednesday that he planned to have $300 million in financing that would go toward a revised offer valuing the company at roughly $680 million, according to three people with knowledge of the proposal. As part of the would-be arrangement, $200 million would come from his own fortune, the people said. The additional $100 million would come from new debt, the people said.
The proposal is not quite firm. Mr. Bainum hopes that his willingness to put in $200 million of his own money, along with the debt financing, will attract others to join his effort, the people said.
His offer is contingent on his finding a backer who will take on Tribune’s flagship paper, The Chicago Tribune, and fill the remaining gap of $380 million, the people added. After discussions with possible investors, Mr. Bainum has yet to find one willing to assume responsibility for the Chicago daily, the people said.
Mr. Bainum, the chief executive of Choice Hotels International, one of the world’s largest hospitality chains, has been trying to put together an acceptable offer for Tribune for months.
At the start of his involvement, in February, he agreed to buy The Baltimore Sun and two smaller Tribune papers in Maryland for $65 million, a deal that would have been completed after Alden had taken full ownership of the company. That plan went awry over details of operating agreements that would be in effect as the Maryland papers transitioned from one owner to another, prompting Mr. Bainum to set his sights on all of Tribune.
He made a solo offer for the entire company on March 16 that valued it at roughly $680 million, or $50 million more than Alden had bid under its February proposal. But Tribune was unswayed, saying it wanted proof that Mr. Bainum had the financing to back his proposal.
At the end of March, he got the company’s attention by joining with the Swiss billionaire Hansjorg Wyss to add weight to the offer. Under the plan, Mr. Bainum would have spent $100 million of his own money and Mr. Wyss would have come through with the rest.
Tribune announced on April 5 that the offer from Mr. Wyss and Mr. Bainum was likely to lead to a “superior proposal.” But less than two weeks later, Mr. Wyss abruptly backed out, forcing Mr. Bainum to revise his bid and seek new deal partners.
The failure of the Bainum-Wyss plan came as a disappointment to journalists at Tribune newspapers across the country, many of whom had been publicly critical of Alden for its strategy of making deep cuts at the roughly 60 daily newspapers it controls through MediaNews Group.
Mr. Bainum declined to comment. Tribune did not immediately reply to a request for comment.
Since Mr. Wyss stepped away, the hedge fund has re-emerged as the most likely future owner of the newspaper chain. Tribune has scheduled a shareholder vote for May 21 to approve the bid by Alden, which has a 32 percent stake in the company.
Mr. Bainum, 75, remains committed to his quest to buy Tribune, the people said, largely because he is passionate about keeping his hometown paper, The Sun, out of Alden’s control.