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Hedge Fund Poised To Buy Hartford Courant, Despite Effort To Keep Ownership Local

Sage Ross
Creative Commons

A hedge fund will purchase the parent company of Connecticut’s Hartford Courant, the nation’s oldest continuously published newspaper.

Alden Global Capital is poised to take complete ownership of Tribune Publishing and most of its subsidiaries, including the Courant, New York Daily News and Chicago Tribune. The deal will not become official until shareholders agree to the purchase.

Hours before the deal was made, state lawmakers, during an insurance and real estate committee hearing, proposed a bill that would examine the Courant’s ownership and make it more difficult to acquire the paper in an effort to keep the ownership local. A union that represents Courant workers has even discussed trying to get small businesses to come together and buy the paper before the new owners implement drastic changes.

Alden Global and other hedge funds that have entered into newspaper publishing have become known for shuttering and downsizing newspapers to save money and earn a profit. Journalism advocacy groups say that hurts communities, leaving them with less local news and more aggregated news on a national scale.

The Courant’s likely new owners have been making a name for themselves by buying shares and minority ownerships in media and newspaper companies over the past decade. Alden Global acquired Digital First Media in 2010 after the previous owners declared bankruptcy. Digital First Media, which owns The Denver Post and Boston Herald, had tried and failed to buy into Gannett, the largest U.S. local newspaper publisher.

In 2019, Alden Global bought 32% ownership of Tribune Publishing. The hedge fund then offered to buy the rest, but that deal fell through. The new offer, which is expected to close in the second quarter of this year, ups the ante to about $17.25 a share, putting the company valuation at $630 million.

The Courant operates under an 1887 special act of the legislature. In 2020, the paper was forced to have most reporters and employees work remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic. In October, the Courant’s newspaper printing was outsourced to the Springfield Herald in Massachusetts. Then in December, Tribune Publishing closed down the newsroom in Hartford. There are no plans for a new newsroom.

The Baltimore Sun, another subsidiary of Tribune Publishing, was able to escape the hold of Alden Global when it was purchased by a nonprofit formed by businessman and philanthropist Stewart Bainum Jr. in Maryland.

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