Tribune Sale to Alden Approved by Shareholders

Dr. Soon-Shiong’s decision not to vote caused some confusion over the status of the deal. Approval required a two-thirds “yes” vote by investors other than Alden, which owns 32 percent of Tribune, and the company’s shareholder filings stated that an abstention would count as a vote against the sale.

But Tribune counted the vote as a “yes,” because Dr. Soon-Shiong did not check the “abstain” box on the ballot, a person with knowledge of the vote said, asking not to be identified discussing private information.

Tribune said the deal received approval from 81 percent of non-Alden shares. “Proxies submitted without a checked box were voted in favor of approval of the merger agreement, in accordance with the board’s recommendation, as provided by the proxy card and the proxy statement,” it said in a statement.

The sale is expected to close by Tuesday, the company said.

The vote underscores the growing might of financial firms in a consolidating media industry. Investors, seeing opportunities to buy distressed assets at bargain prices, have swooped in over the past decade, with plans to make money by drastically cutting costs, laying off workers, combining operations and selling off real estate holdings.

In that time, Alden amassed a media empire through its MediaNews Group, which owns newspapers including The Denver Post and The Boston Herald. In August, the family-owned publisher McClatchy was sold to the hedge fund Chatham Asset Management after a bankruptcy auction. Gannett, the publisher of USA Today, was bought by New Media Investment Group, the parent company of GateHouse Media, in 2019 with financing from the private equity firm Apollo Global Management.

Alden first signaled its pursuit of Tribune when it announced in November 2019 that it had bought a 32 percent stake in the company. Tribune, whose other papers include the Hartford Courant, The South Florida Sun Sentinel and The Virginian-Pilot, has struggled to grow its digital subscription business and has cut costs and shed journalists in recent years. (It said in its latest earnings release that it had 436,000 digital subscribers at the end of 2020.)

“The purchase of Tribune reaffirms our commitment to the newspaper industry and our focus on getting publications to a place where they can operate sustainably over the long term,” Heath Freeman, the president of Alden, said in a statement Friday.

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