Tribune said Alden paid about $118 million for the stake and that it is talking with Alden about adding two board seats. Ferro stepped down as Tribune chairman in 2018 amid sexual misconduct accusations. His time at Tribune was marked by a much-maligned company name change to “tronc,” which was later reverted; the sale of the Los Angeles Times; and pushing off an unsolicited merger bid from rival Gannett.
The newspaper industry is consolidating as it struggles with a digital transition, and financial firms have become involved as owners and investors. Another newspaper chain, GateHouse, now owns Gannett, with help from a high-interest loan from private equity firm Apollo. Another private equity firm, Fortress, has backed GateHouse and is managing the combined GateHouse-Gannett chain, the country’s biggest newspaper publisher, through 2021.
Alden’s Digital First Media owns the Denver Post, Orange County Register, Detroit News and dozens of other papers. It attempted to buy Gannett before the GateHouse deal. While all newspaper companies have been affected by the industry downturn, leading to newsroom layoffs and buyouts, Digital First Media has a particularly bitter reputation for cutting costs at its papers.