December 4, 2022

Swiss Billionaire Joins the Bidding for Tribune Publishing

The agreement struck by Mr. Wyss and Mr. Bainum is nonbinding, Mr. Wyss said. He added that it came together in recent days and is detailed in a letter he sent to Mr. Bainum on Friday. A person with knowledge of the discussions between Mr. Wyss and Mr. Bainum confirmed that each man planned to put up $100 million toward the $650 million bid, and Mr. Wyss said he would be willing to supply additional funds for debt financing.

Mr. Bainum declined to comment. A spokesman for three members of Tribune’s board not affiliated with Alden declined to comment. A spokesman for Alden did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

A decade ago, Mr. Wyss led 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.

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