Tribune In Talks to Buy Suburban Chicago Papers

Just a few months into its new life as an independent company, Tribune Publishing is looking to expand by acquiring local newspapers serving the suburbs of Chicago from Wrapports, publisher of the Chicago Sun-Times, according to Chicago media columnist Robert Feder, who first reported the news.

Tribune Publishing and Wrapports are said to be in talks, but neither company has confirmed the news.

If the talks bear fruit, Tribune Publishing would complement its flagship newspaper, the Chicago Tribune, with the acquisition of suburban newspapers, including the Southtown Star, Aurora Beacon-News, Elgin Courier-News, Lake County News-Sun, Naperville Sun, and the Post Tribune, plus dozens of weekly newspapers published across the Chicago metropolitan area by the Pioneer Press.



Tribune’s interest in acquisitions reflects a certain amount of optimism, especially following the decision to assume more debt as part of its spinoff from Tribune Media in August. Tribune Publishing came away from the spinoff with $350 million in debt, including a one-time cash dividend of $275 million that will be paid to Tribune Co. upon completion of the spinoff.

The last few years have seen scores of newspapers changing hands, most of them concentrated among regional and local markets, including a number of divestments by corporate parents seeking to unload troubled newspaper properties in order to focus on more profitable broadcast TV businesses.

The trend dates back at least to the split of newspaper publisher A.H. Belo, owner of The Dallas Morning News, from TV broadcaster Belo Corp back in 2011. In 2012, Media General sold 63 daily and weekly newspapers to Berkshire Hathaway, then merged with Young Broadcasting the following year.

In July, E.W. Scripps and Journal Communications -- publisher of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel -- announced plans for twin spinoffs and mergers, consolidating their broadcast properties and newspapers in two separate companies. Then in August, as noted, Tribune Co. split into Tribune Publishing and Tribune Media, and Gannett Co. announced that it would spin off its newspapers to focus on its broadcasting and digital properties.

Finally, in September, The Denver Post reported that Digital First Media is considering selling some or all of its newspapers; in addition to The Denver Post, Digital First’s portfolio includes the San Jose Mercury News, New Haven Register, St. Paul Pioneer Press and Salt Lake Tribune, among others.

Next story loading loading..