manufacturing activity in the United States and Europe showed a rapid pickup, as did retail sales data from Britain.
The Stoxx Europe 600 rose 0.6 percent led by gains in consumer companies. One of the biggest gainers was Richemont, the Swiss luxury goods company that owns brands including Cartier and Montblanc. Richemont shares rose after the company reported its full-year results with strong growth in sales in Asia especially for its jewelry and watch brands.
Oil prices rose. Futures of West Texas Intermediate, the U.S. crude benchmark, rose 1.4 percent to $63.48 a barrel.
Retail sales in Britain surged in April as nonessential stores were allowed to reopen. The volume of sales increased 9.2 percent from the previous month, the Office for National Statistics said on Friday. It was more than double the forecast by economists surveyed by Bloomberg. Shopping for clothes stores led the resurgence.
Across the eurozone, activity in the services sector jumped in May. The Purchasing Managers’ Index climbed to 55.1 points from 50.5 in April, IHS Markit said on Friday. A reading above 50 signals expansion. The index for manufacturing was little changed from the previous month at 62.8.
“Growth would have been even stronger had it not been for record supply chain delays and difficulties restarting businesses quickly enough to meet demand, especially in terms of rehiring,” Chris Williamson, chief business economist at IHS Markit, wrote in the report.
IHS’s measure for U.S. manufacturers and service providers climbed to a record. The Purchasing Managers Index for the country rose to 68.1, from 63.5 a month earlier. “Business confidence across the private sector improved in May,” IHS reported.
There are many ways to measure how much the economy has reopened after pandemic lockdowns. One offbeat way is to compare the share prices of Clorox to Dave & Buster’s.
Nick Mazing, the director of research at the data provider Sentieo, came up with this metric to gauge shifts in postpandemic activity. The higher Clorox’s share price rises relative to Dave & Buster’s, the more people appear to be staying home and disinfecting everything than going out to crowded bars.
By this measure, the DealBook newsletter reports, conditions have nearly returned to prepandemic levels — indeed, Dave & Buster’s recently lifted its sales forecast, as nearly all of its beer-and-arcade bars have reopened.
Two more ratios that Mr. Mazing suggest comparing are Netflix versus Live Nation and Peloton versus Planet Fitness.
The first is also nearly back to where it was before the pandemic: Live Nation is preparing for a packed concert schedule, selling tickets to people who may have already binge-watched all of “Below Deck.”
The second, however, suggests that people aren’t as eager to get back to huffing and puffing at the gym as they are content to exercise at home. As restrictions lift and people feel safer in crowds, drinking and dancing appear to be higher priorities.
The government’s $788 billion relief effort for small businesses ravaged by the coronavirus pandemic, the Paycheck Protection Program, is ending as it began, with the initiative’s final days mired in chaos and confusion.
Millions of applicants are seeking money from the scant handful of lenders still making the government-backed loans. Hundreds of thousands of people are stuck in limbo, waiting to find out if they will receive their approved loans — some of which have been stalled for months because of errors or glitches. Lenders are overwhelmed, and borrowers are panicking, The New York Times’s Stacy Cowley reports.
The relief program had been scheduled to keep taking applications until May 31. But two weeks ago, its manager, the Small Business Administration, announced that the program’s $292 billion in financing for forgivable loans this year had nearly run out and that it would immediately stop processing most new applications.
Then the government threw another curveball: The Small Business Administration decided that the remaining money, around $9 billion, would be available only through community financial institutions, a small group of specially designated institutions that focus on underserved communities.
The American steel industry is experiencing a comeback that few would have predicted even months ago.
Steel prices are at record highs and demand is surging as businesses step up production amid an easing of pandemic restrictions. Steel makers have consolidated in the past year, allowing them to exert more control over supply. Tariffs on foreign steel imposed by the Trump administration have kept cheaper imports out. And steel companies are hiring again, The New York Times’s Matt Phillips reports.
It’s not clear how long the boom will last. This week, the Biden administration began discussions with European Union trade officials about global steel markets. Some steel workers and executives believe that could lead to an eventual pullback of the Trump-era tariffs, which are widely credited for spurring the turnaround in the steel industry.
Record prices for steel are not going to reverse decades of job losses. Since the early 1960s, employment in the steel industry has fallen more than 75 percent. More than 400,000 jobs disappeared as foreign competition grew and as the industry shifted toward production processes that required fewer workers. But the price surge is delivering some optimism to steel towns across the country, especially after job losses during the pandemic pushed American steel employment to the lowest level on record.
Shareholders of Tribune Publishing, the owner of major metropolitan newspapers like the The Chicago Tribune and The New York Daily News, will vote on Friday on whether to approve the company’s saleto Alden Global Capital, a financial investor with a reputation for slashing costs and cutting jobs. Alden already holds a 32 percent stake in Tribune, so the deal hinges on approval from the shareholders who own the other two-thirds of Tribune’s stock. Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong, a billionaire medical entrepreneur who owns The Los Angeles Times and other California papers with his wife, Michele B. Chan, has a 24 percent stake in Tribune. Dr. Soon-Shiong has not commented publicly on how he intends to vote.
CNN said on Thursday that its prime-time host Chris Cuomo inappropriately offered public-relations advice to his brother, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York, after a series of sexual harassment allegations threatened the governor’s political career earlier this year. CNN said Chris Cuomo would refrain from any more similar discussions with the governor’s staff. But the network said it would take no disciplinary action against the anchor, whose program was CNN’s highest-rated show in the first quarter of the year. Chris Cuomo apologized to viewers and his colleagues at the start of Thursday’s show for the calls with the governor’s staff, saying: “It will not happen again. It was a mistake.” But he also defended himself, saying that he “of course” gave advice to his brother and that he was “family first, job second.”
The hedge fund that wants to buy Tribune Publishing, the owner of some of the nation’s major metropolitan newspapers, has one final hurdle to cross.
Shareholders of the newspaper company, whose titles include The Chicago Tribune, The Baltimore Sun and The New York Daily News, will vote on Friday on whether to approve the company’s sale to Alden Global Capital, an investor with a reputation for slashing costs and cutting jobs at the approximately 200 newspapers it already owns.
Alden’s effort to buy Tribune has faced resistance: Journalists at Tribune’s papers protested the sale and publicly pleaded for another buyer to step in. A Maryland hotel executive who had planned to purchase the The Baltimore Sun offered a glimmer of hope when he emerged with a last-minute offer for the entire company. He was backed for a brief time by a Swiss billionaire.
But the rival bid never fully came together, so the choice facing Tribune’s shareholders is to approve or reject Alden’s offer. Tribune’s board has recommended that they vote for the sale.
Chicago Tribune Guild president, begged Dr. Soon-Shiong to vote “No” on Friday.
“As Tribune Publishing’s second-largest shareholder, you can single-handedly keep Alden from sealing the deal,” Mr. Pratt wrote. “We’re not asking you to buy the company, though that would be great. But we are asking you to use your power to stop Alden from consolidating its own.”
Alden began buying up news outlets more than a decade ago and owns MediaNews Group, the second-largest newspaper group in the country, with titles including The Denver Post and The Boston Herald. While buying a newspaper may sound like a questionable investment in an era of shrinking print circulation and advertising, Alden has found a way to eke out a profit by laying off workers, cutting costs and selling off real estate.
“Alden’s playbook is pretty straightforward: Buy low, cut deeper,” said Jim Friedlich, the chief executive of The Lenfest Institute for Journalism, a journalism nonprofit that owns The Philadelphia Inquirer. “There’s little reason to believe that Alden will approach full ownership of Tribune any differently than they have their other news properties.”
Stewart W. Bainum Jr., the hotel magnate from Baltimore who made a last-ditch effort to rival Alden’s bid.
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“This is the strategic logic of the acquisition, and one would hope — but not expect — that the savings from these synergies will be reinvested in local journalism and digital transformation,” he said.
Tribune, Alden Global Capital and Mr. Bainum declined to comment ahead of the vote.
Tribune agreed in February to sell to Alden, which had pursued ownership for years, in a deal that valued Tribune at roughly $630 million.
While a sale to Alden now seems inevitable, the twists and turns of recent weeks had seemed to favor Tribune’s reporters.
Mr. Bainum emerged as a potential savior in February, when he announced that he would establish a nonprofit to buy The Baltimore Sun and other Maryland newspapers from Alden once its purchase of Tribune went through. But his deal with Alden soon ran aground as negotiations stalled over the operating agreements that would be in effect as the papers were transferred.
So Mr. Bainum made a bid for the whole company on March 16, outmatching Alden with an offer that valued the company at about $680 million. He was then joined by Hansjörg Wyss, a Swiss billionaire who lives in Wyoming and had expressed an interest in owning The Chicago Tribune. Mr. Bainum would have put up $100 million, with Mr. Wyss financing the rest.
Tribune agreed to consider the bid from the pair, who formed a company called Newslight, saying on April 5 that it would enter negotiations because it had determined that the deal could lead to a “superior proposal.” Part of the discussions included access to Tribune’s finances.
exiting the bid after his associates reviewed the books. Part of the reason for his decision, according to people with knowledge of the matter, was the realization that his plans to transform the Chicago newspaper into a competitive national daily would be near impossible to pull off.
Mr. Bainum notified Tribune on April 30 that he would increase the amount of money that he would personally put toward the financing from $100 million to $300 million, as he hunted for like-minded investors to replace Mr. Wyss. In addition to needing to fund the balance of his bid, $380 million, Mr. Bainum’s offer was contingent on finding someone to take on responsibility for The Chicago Tribune, according to three people with knowledge of the discussions.
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.
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 Hansjörg 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.
Tribune Publishing said on Monday that it had ended talks to sell itself to Newslight, a company set up last month by the Maryland hotel executive Stewart W. Bainum Jr. and the Swiss billionaire Hansjörg Wyss, after Mr. Wyss withdrew from a planned offer on Friday.
Tribune Publishing’s special committee, which evaluates bids, said in a news release on Monday that the Newslight plan could no longer “reasonably be expected to lead to a ‘superior proposal’” than the binding agreement the company had reached in February with Alden Global Capital, a New York hedge fund. (An earlier version of this item misstated that the agreement was nonbinding.)
Mr. Bainum and Mr. Wyss had swooped in last month with a proposal of $18.50 per Tribune share, beating out the bid from Alden, which was for $17.25 a share.
The pathway to a deal involving Mr. Bainum, the chief executive of Choice Hotels, one of the world’s largest hotel chains, is not completely blocked.
In a letter on Saturday, Mr. Bainum informed the Tribune board of Mr. Wyss’s exit from a potential deal, adding that he remained committed to a proposal at $18.50 a share, after examining the company’s finances and discussing a possible agreement with other potential backers.
“I remain confident that there is significant interest in joining this effort and expect the necessary arrangements among one or more additional equity financing sources can be completed expeditiously,” Mr. Bainum wrote in the letter. He declined to comment for this article.
Tribune’s special committee said in its statement on Monday that it would “carefully consider any further developments in order to determine the course of action that is in the best interest of Tribune and its stockholders, subject to the terms of the Alden merger agreement.”
The committee added that, in keeping with a previous recommendation, its board would advise company stockholders to vote in favor of the Alden deal.
Tribune, the publisher of The Chicago Tribune, The Baltimore Sun, The Daily News and other metropolitan newspapers across the country, has been the target of Alden, its largest shareholder, since last year.
Because Alden is known for slashing costs at the roughly 60 daily newspapers it controls through its MediaNews Group subsidiary, journalists at Tribune publications cheered the surprise entry of Mr. Bainum and Mr. Wyss into the bidding. Alden has said it allows newspapers that might otherwise fold in a struggling industry to remain in business.
Tribune shareholders are expected to vote on a buyer this summer, after the board formally approves an offer.
The Swiss billionaire Hansjörg Wyss, who seemingly came out of nowhere last month to make a serious offer for Tribune Publishing, a major newspaper chain, has decided to take himself out of the bidding, according to three people with knowledge of the matter.
Two of the people said the decision came about in recent days, after Mr. Wyss’s associates examined the Tribune’s finances as part of a due diligence process.
The two people added that Mr. Wyss had come to believe it would be difficult for him to realize his ambition of transforming The Chicago Tribune — the company’s flagship paper and the one he was most interested in — into a national publication. The three people with knowledge of the matter spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the deal publicly.
Mr. Wyss, who made his fortune as a medical device manufacturer, had joined the Maryland hotel executive Stewart Bainum Jr. in a bid that seemed as if it had a chance of preventing Tribune from becoming fully owned by its largest shareholder, the New York hedge fund Alden Global Capital.
In late March, Mr. Wyss and Mr. Bainum had put together an offer of $18.50 a share, which valued the chain at $680 million. It came more than a month after Tribune had reached a nonbinding agreement to sell itself to Alden at $17.25 a share. On April 5, Tribune Publishing said that its special committee had determined that the bid from Mr. Wyss and Mr. Bainum would be reasonably expected to lead to a “superior proposal,” when compared with the Alden bid.
Because Alden is known for slashing costs at the roughly 60 daily newspapers it controls through its MediaNews Group subsidiary, journalists at Tribune publications cheered the surprise entry of Mr. Wyss and Mr. Bainum into the bidding.
Mr. Wyss and Mr. Bainum declined to comment. Tribune’s special committee also declined to comment.
Mr. Bainum, who had taken a special interest in another Tribune paper, The Baltimore Sun, remains committed to pursuing ownership of Tribune Publishing. With Mr. Wyss no longer at his side, he is seeking new financing, the three people said. Mr. Bainum told the Tribune’s special committee of Mr. Wyss’s departure on Friday, two of the people said, and confirmed his exit from the deal in writing on Saturday.
Mr. Wyss, who was born in Bern, Switzerland, and has a home in Wyoming, first visited the United States as an exchange student in 1958 and worked as a journalist as a young man. A decade ago, as the chief executive of the Swiss-based medical device maker Synthes, he oversaw its sale to Johnson & Johnson for roughly $20 billion.
Mr. Wyss, who has pledged to donate half his money to charity, has given hundreds of millions to environmental and conservation causes. Through his foundations, he has gradually increased his donations to groups that promote abortion rights, minimum wage increases and other progressive causes.
He became a member of the Democracy Alliance, a club of liberal donors, as well as the board of the Center for American Progress, a Washington think tank that got its start with support from Democracy Alliance donors. The think tank and its sister political group have received more than $6.1 million from foundations linked to Mr. Wyss, according to tax filings.
Mr. Podesta, the founder of the Center for American Progress, has also advised the Wyss Foundation, including on the hiring of The Hub Project’s executive director, Arkadi Gerney, a former official at the Center for American Progress, according to people with knowledge of the arrangement.
The Hub Project came out of the idea that Democrats should be more effective in conveying their arguments through the news media and directly to voters. Its business plan, a 21-page document prepared for the Wyss Foundation in 2015, recommended that the group “be solely funded by the Wyss Foundation at the outset” and that it would work behind the scenes to “dramatically shift the public debate and policy positions of core decision makers.” The plan added that The Hub Project “is not intended to be the public face of campaigns.”
The Hub Project is part of an opaque network managed by a Washington consulting firm, Arabella Advisors, that has funneled hundreds of millions of dollars through a daisy chain of groups supporting Democrats and progressive causes. The system of political financing, which often obscures the identities of donors, is known as dark money, and Arabella’s network is a leading vehicle for it on the left.
The Arabella network has similarities to the operation created by the Kochs. Democrats have long criticized the Kochs and others who have engaged in the hard-to-track political spending unleashed in part by the Supreme Court’s decision in the 2010 Citizens United case.
The Arabella network’s money flows through four nonprofits that serve as parent structures for a range of groups, including The Hub Project. The nonprofits then pass some of the funds along to other nonprofit groups or super PACs.
Billionaires have had a pretty good pandemic. There are more of them than there were a year ago, even as the crisis has exacerbated inequality. But scrutiny has followed these ballooning fortunes. Policymakers are debating new taxes on corporations and wealthy individuals. Even their philanthropy has come under increasing criticism as an exercise of power as much as generosity.
One arena in which the billionaires can still win plaudits as civic-minded saviors is buying the metropolitan daily newspaper.
The local business leader might not have seemed like such a salvation a quarter century ago, before Craigslist, Google and Facebook began divvying up newspapers’ fat ad revenues. Generally, the neighborhood billionaires are considered worth a careful look by the paper’s investigative unit. But a lot of papers don’t even have an investigative unit anymore, and the priority is survival.
This media landscape nudged newspaper ownership from the vanity column toward the philanthropy side of the ledger. Paying for a few more reporters and to fix the coffee machine can earn you acclaim for a lot less effort than, say, spending two decades building the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
$680 million bid by Hansjörg Wyss, a little-known Swiss billionaire, and Stewart W. Bainum Jr., a Maryland hotel magnate, for Tribune Publishing and its roster of storied broadsheets and tabloids like The Chicago Tribune, The Daily News and The Baltimore Sun.
Should Mr. Wyss and Mr. Bainum succeed in snatching Tribune away from Alden Global Capital, whose bid for the company had already won the backing of Tribune’s board, the purchase will represent the latest example of a more than decade-long quest by some of America’s ultrawealthy to prop up a crumbling pillar of democracy.
If there was a signal year in this development, it came in 2013. That is when Amazon founder Jeff Bezos bought The Washington Post and the Red Sox’ owner, John Henry, bought The Boston Globe.
“I invested in The Globe because I believe deeply in the future of this great community, and The Globe should play a vital role in determining that future,” Mr. Henry wrote at the time.
led a revival of the paper to its former glory. And after a somewhat rockier start, experts said that Mr. Henry and his wife, Linda Pizzuti Henry, the chief executive officer of Boston Globe Media Partners, have gone a long way toward restoring that paper as well.
Norman Pearlstine, who served as executive editor for two years after Dr. Soon-Shiong’s purchase and still serves as a senior adviser. “I don’t think that’s open to debate or dispute.”
From Utah to Minnesota and from Long Island to the Berkshires, local grandees have decided that a newspaper is an essential part of the civic fabric. Their track records as owners are somewhat mixed, but mixed in this case is better than the alternative.
Researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill released a report last year showing that in the previous 15 years, more than a quarter of American newspapers disappeared, leaving behind what they called “news deserts.” The 2020 report was an update of a similar one from 2018, but just in those two years another 300 newspapers died, taking 6,000 journalism jobs with them.
“I don’t think anybody in the news business even has rose colored glasses anymore,” said Tom Rosenstiel, executive director of the American Press Institute, a nonprofit journalism advocacy group. “They took them off a few years ago, and they don’t know where they are.”
“The advantage of a local owner who cares about the community is that they in theory can give you runway and also say, ‘Operate at break-even on a cash-flow basis and you’re good,’” said Mr. Rosenstiel.
won a prestigious Polk Award for its coverage of the killing of George Floyd and the aftermath.
“The communities that have papers owned by very wealthy people in general have fared much better because they stayed the course with large newsrooms,” said Ken Doctor, on hiatus as a media industry analyst to work as C.E.O. and founder of Lookout Local, which is trying to revive the local news business in smaller markets, starting in Santa Cruz, Calif. Hedge funds, by contrast, have expected as much as 20 percent of revenue a year from their properties, which can often be achieved only by stripping papers of reporters and editors for short-term gain.
Alden has made deep cuts at many of its MediaNews Group publications, including The Denver Post and The San Jose Mercury News. Alden argues that it is rescuing papers that might otherwise have gone out of business in the past two decades.
And a billionaire buyer is far from a panacea for the industry’s ills. “It’s not just, go find yourself a rich guy. It’s the right rich person. There are lots of people with lots of money. A lot of them shouldn’t run newspaper companies,” said Ann Marie Lipinski, curator of the Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard and the former editor of The Chicago Tribune. “Sam Zell is Exhibit A. So be careful who you ask.”
beaten a retreat from the industry. And there have even been reports that Dr. Soon-Shiong has explored a sale of The Los Angeles Times (which he has denied).
“The great fear of every billionaire is that by owning a newspaper they will become a millionaire,” said Mr. Rosenstiel.
Elizabeth Green, co-founder and chief executive at Chalkbeat, a nonprofit education news organization with 30 reporters in eight cities around the country, said that rescuing a dozen metro dailies that are “obviously shells of their former selves” was never going to be enough to turn around the local news business.
“Even these attempts are still preserving institutions that were always flawed and not leaning into the new information economy and how we all consume and learn and pay for things,” said Ms. Green, who also co-founded the American Journalism Project, which is working to create a network of nonprofit outlets.
Ms. Green is not alone in her belief that the future of American journalism lies in new forms of journalism, often as nonprofits. The American Journalism Project received funding from the Houston philanthropists Laura and John Arnold, the Craigslist founder Craig Newmark and Laurene Powell Jobs’s Emerson Collective, which also bought The Atlantic. Herbert and Marion Sandler, who built one of the country’s largest savings and loans, gave money to start ProPublica.
“We’re seeing a lot of growth of relatively small nonprofits that are now part of what I would call the philanthropic journalistic complex,” said Mr. Doctor. “The question really isn’t corporate structure, nonprofit or profit, the question is money and time.”
operating as a nonprofit.
After the cable television entrepreneur H.F. (Gerry) Lenfest bought The Philadelphia Inquirer, he set up a hybrid structure. The paper is run as a for-profit, public benefit corporation, but it belongs to a nonprofit called the Lenfest Institute. The complex structure is meant to maintain editorial independence and maximum flexibility to run as a business while also encouraging philanthropic support.
Of the $7 million that Lenfest gave to supplement The Inquirer’s revenue from subscribers and advertisers in 2020, only $2 million of it came from the institute, while the remaining $5 million came from a broad array of national, local, institutional and independent donors, said Jim Friedlich, executive director and chief executive of Lenfest.
“I think philosophically, we’ve long accepted that we have no museums or opera houses without philanthropic support,” said Ms. Lipinski. “I think journalism deserves the same consideration.”
Mr. Bainum has said he plans to establish a nonprofit group that would buy The Sun and two other Tribune-owned Maryland newspapers if he and Mr. Wyss succeed in their bid.
“These buyers range across the political spectrum, and on the surface have little in common except their wealth,” said Mr. Friedlich. “Each seems to feel that American democracy is sailing through choppy waters, and they’ve decided to buy a newspaper instead of a yacht.”
Tribune Publishing, the newspaper chain that includes The Chicago Tribune, The Daily News and The Baltimore Sun, said on Monday that it has begun serious discussions about a sale of the company to a pair of bidders who came through with an offer nearly two months after Tribune agreed to sell itself to Alden Global Capital, a New York hedge fund.
The new bid, which is greater than the amount offered by Alden, was made on Thursday by Stewart W. Bainum Jr., a Maryland hotel magnate, and Hansjörg Wyss, a Swiss billionaire who made his fortune as a manufacturer of medical devices.
The two have joined together in a company called Newslight. Tribune Publishing announced on Monday that it would “engage in discussions and negotiations” with Mr. Bainum and Mr. Wyss. The company added that, for now, it will not “terminate the Alden merger agreement or enter into any merger agreement with Newslight, Mr. Bainum or Mr. Wyss.”
Until recently, it looked as though Alden Global Capital would almost certainly become the next owner of Tribune. Late last month, Mr. Wyss emerged as a surprise new player, telling The New York Times that he would team up with Mr. Bainum in a bid for the chain. On Thursday, Mr. Wyss and Mr. Bainum submitted their bid, which valued Tribune at $18.50 a share, beating Alden’s offer of $17.25.
reported earlier by The Wall Street Journal.
Tribune Publishing said on Monday that its special committee had determined that the competing bid from Mr. Wyss and Mr. Bainum would be reasonably expected to lead to a “superior proposal” than the Alden bid.
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But the Tribune advised caution, telling shareholders, “There can be no assurance that the discussions with Newslight and its principals will result in a binding proposal.”
Nearly two months ago, Mr. Bainum had reached a nonbinding agreement to establish a nonprofit that would buy The Sun and two other Tribune-owned Maryland newspapers from Alden, for $65 million, after the Alden-Tribune deal gained shareholder approval. That agreement ran into trouble soon after it was made, however. Last month, Mr. Bainum, the chairman of Choice Hotels International, one of the world’s largest hotel chains, made a bid for all of Tribune, offering $18.50 a share.
After considering the bid from Mr. Bainum last month, Tribune said it still favored the agreement with Alden, which had solid financing. At the same time, the board informed Mr. Bainum that he was free to find backers to make his offer more attractive. He did just that by joining with Mr. Wyss.
opinion essay in which two former Chicago Tribune reporters, David Jackson and Gary Marx, warned that Alden would create “a ghost version of The Chicago Tribune.” Other Tribune journalists, from California to Maryland, have led campaigns to persuade local benefactors to buy Tribune Publishing, or at least one of its papers.
Mr. Wyss, who lives in Wyoming, said he joined the effort to buy Tribune because of his belief in a robust press. “I don’t want to see another newspaper that has a chance to increase the amount of truth being told to the American people going down the drain,” he said in the interview last month.
An octogenarian Swiss billionaire who makes his home in Wyoming and has donated hundreds of millions to environmental causes is a surprise new player in the bidding for Tribune Publishing, the major newspaper chain that until recently seemed destined to end up in the hands of a New York hedge fund.
Hansjörg Wyss (pronounced Hans-yorg Vees), the former chief executive of the medical device manufacturer Synthes, said in an interview on Friday that he had agreed to join with the Maryland hotelier Stewart W. Bainum Jr. in a bid for Tribune Publishing, an offer that could upend Alden Global Capital’s plan to take full ownership of the company.
Mr. Wyss, who has given away some of his fortune to help preserve wildlife habitats in Wyoming, Montana and Maine, said he was motivated to join the Tribune bid by his belief in the need for a robust press. “I have an opportunity to do 500 times more than what I’m doing now,” he said.
Alden, which already owns roughly 32 percent of Tribune Publishing shares, is known for drastically cutting costs at the newspapers it controls through its MediaNews Group subsidiary. Last month, the hedge fund reached an agreement with Tribune, whose papers include The Daily News, The Baltimore Sun and The Chicago Tribune, to buy the rest of the company’s shares at $17.25 apiece.
Choice Hotels International, one of the world’s largest hotel chains, to make a bid on March 16 for all of Tribune, beating Alden’s number with an offer of $18.50 a share.
That bid valued the company at about $650 million. The Alden agreement valued Tribune at roughly $630 million.
Tribune was not swayed by Mr. Bainum’s offer. A securities filing on Tuesday revealed that the company’s board recommended that shareholders approve the Alden bid. At the same time, the Tribune board gave Mr. Bainum the go-ahead to pursue financing for his higher bid.
He has done just that by teaming with Mr. Wyss, who said in the interview that he planned to own the company’s flagship paper while he and Mr. Bainum seek benefactors for Tribune’s seven other metro dailies, which include The Orlando Sentinel and The Hartford Courant.
“He made that bid because he wants The Baltimore Sun,” Mr. Wyss said, referring to Mr. Bainum. “I said, ‘Yeah, that’s fine. And I have to make The Tribune even better than what it is now.’”
the sale of Synthes to Johnson & Johnson for roughly $20 billion. Mr. Wyss and his family — a daughter, Amy, also lives in Wyoming — had the largest stake in Synthes, owning nearly half the shares.
The sale of Tribune, which the newspaper company hopes to conclude by July, requires regulatory approval and yes votes from company shareholders representing two-thirds of the non-Alden stock. The medical entrepreneur Patrick Soon-Shiong, who owns The Los Angeles Times with his wife, Michele B. Chan, has enough Tribune shares to squash the Alden deal by himself. Dr. Soon-Shiong declined to comment on Saturday.
Mr. Wyss said he would be a civic-minded custodian of The Chicago Tribune. “I don’t want to see another newspaper that has a chance to increase the amount of truth being told to the American people going down the drain,” he said.
Alden’s potential acquisition of Tribune has been fiercely opposed by many journalists at Tribune papers. Alden has aggressively cut costs at many MediaNews Group publications, including The Denver Post and The San Jose Mercury News. Critics say the hedge fund sacrifices journalistic quality for greater profits, while Alden argues that it saves papers that would otherwise join the thousands that have gone out of business in the last two decades.
Mr. Wyss, 85, said he was partly inspired to join Mr. Bainum by a New York Times opinion essay last year in which two Chicago Tribune reporters, David Jackson and Gary Marx, warned that an Alden purchase would lead to “a ghost version of The Chicago Tribune — a newspaper that can no longer carry out its essential watchdog mission.” Since that article appeared, both reporters have left the paper.
Mr. Wyss, born in Bern, first visited the United States as an exchange student in 1958, working for the Colorado Highway Department. He was a journalist as a young man, he said, covering skiing for Neue Zürcher Zeitung, aZurich paper, and filing dispatches on American sports to Der Bund, a Bern paper, when he was studying at Harvard Business School.
He said he believed The Chicago Tribune would prosper under his ownership.
“Maybe I’m naïve,” Mr. Wyss said, “but the combination of giving enough money to a professional staff to do the right things and putting quite a bit of money into digital will eventually make it a very profitable newspaper.”
Tribune Publishing’s board recommended that shareholders approve a purchase offer from the hedge fund Alden Global Capital over a higher bid from a Maryland hotel executive, according to a securities filing Tuesday.
The filing comes a week after Stewart W. Bainum Jr., a hotel magnate, made an $18.50 per share offer for the whole company. Mr. Bainum initially had agreed with Alden to spin off three of Tribune’s titles — The Baltimore Sun and two smaller Maryland papers — at the price of $65 million. But negotiations between Alden and Mr. Banium stalled over details of operating agreements that would be in effect as the Maryland papers transitioned from one owner to another, prompting Mr. Banium to pursue a bid to buy all of Tribune.
Alden, Tribune’s largest shareholder with a 32 percent stake, agreed last month to buy the rest of the company at $17.25 per share and take it private in a deal that would value the company at $630 million. Alden would buy of all the company’s remaining papers, which include The Chicago Tribune and The Daily News.
Alden has been criticized for laying off journalists and shrinking local news coverage at the roughly 60 newspapers it already owns. The hedge fund says it is keeping local newspapers from going out of business.