CHICAGO (CN) – Unless another buyer materializes in the next two weeks, the Chicago Tribune’s parent company will buy the Chicago Sun-Times, placing both of the city’s major papers under the same ownership.
On Monday, the Chicago Sun-Times owner Wrapports LLC announced it is putting the newspaper and its other media assets on the market, seeking new ownership that will pledge to run the Sun-Times as an independent paper. It will also sell its interest in the city’s alternative weekly, the Chicago Reader.
With a daily circulation of nearly half a million papers, the Sun-Times is the Windy City’s oldest daily newspaper, and serves as the city’s left-leaning rival to the conservative Chicago Tribune.
In a statement, Wrapports said it has received a non-binding letter of intent from tronc Inc., formerly known as Tribune Publishing, with an offer to buy the paper for an undisclosed amount while committing to maintain its independent newsroom.
Tronc also owns the Los Angeles Times, Orlando Sentinel, Baltimore Sun and other local newspapers around the country.
Wrapports said it tried to find another buyer, but “it became clear that a business combination with tronc made the most sense, especially since tronc and Wrapports already have some business ties.”
For example, the Chicago Tribune has handled the printing and distribution of the Sun-Times for several years.
The Tribune’s initial coverage of the potential buyout called the Sun-Times a “scrappy, but struggling, tabloid,” and, indeed, the Sun-Times has undergone a series of cost-cutting measures that seriously undermined its coverage, such as eliminating the paper’s photography department in 2013.
The Sun-Times cover photo commemorating the Chicago Cub’s historic 2016 World Series win was widely ridiculed as amateur compared to the Tribune’s iconic cover.
Wrapports and tronc voluntarily notified the U.S. Department of Justice Antitrust Division about the possible sale, and the government announced it will launch an investigation into the transaction.
Per the Justice Department’s request, the Sun-Times will run a full-page advertisement in Tuesday’s edition announcing the paper’s sale to alert other potential bidders who may be interested in buying the newspaper.
“Any potential buyer would have 15 days to discuss a possible combination,” Wrapports said in its statement. “If no viable partner emerges, tronc and Wrapports intend to continue pursuing a deal to successfully close the transaction.”