Tribune buys place in the ’burbs for $23.5 million

(Photo: Matt Stratton on Flickr.com)

(Photo: Matt Stratton on Flickr.com)

Tribune Publishing Co. paid $23.5 million to buy 38 suburban newspapers last week from the parent company of the Sun-Times. The previously undisclosed price tag was reported Wednesday in a company filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on third quarter results.

In the deal announced last Friday, Tribune Publishing acquired the Aurora Beacon-News, Elgin Courier-News, Lake County News-Sun, Naperville Sun, Post-Tribune in Northwest Indiana, SouthtownStar and the 32 Pioneer Press weekly newspapers from Wrapports LLC, parent of Sun-Times Media.

In 2000, Hollinger International, then-owner of the Sun-Times, reportedly paid Copley Press Inc. between $120 million and $150 million for just four dailies — the Beacon-News, Courier-News, News-Sun and the Herald-News in Joliet. Wrapports sold the Herald-News last December to Shaw Media for a reported $6 million.

TribunePublishingThe newly acquired 38 suburban publications have become part of Chicago Tribune Media Group, which also operates the Chicago Tribune, RedEye, Chicago magazine and Hoy, among other brands. “We’re thrilled to welcome our new suburban newspapers and staff to the Chicago Tribune Media Group,” Chicago Tribune editor Gerry Kern tweeted Friday.

Still not known are financial terms of Tribune Publishing’s new long-term agreement to continue printing and distributing the Sun-Times. Tribune has been printing Sun-Times papers since 2011 and distributing them since 2007.

(My blog is published independently under a licensing agreement with Chicago Tribune Media Group.)

Here is the memo to employees Friday from Timothy Knight, CEO of Wrapports:

Dear Colleagues:

Earlier this week, we announced the launch of The Sun Times Network, a new mobile-first app network in 70 U.S. cities featuring original content through a partnership with the Chicago Sun-Times newspaper and original and curated content in each local market. A copy of the press release from earlier this week is attached.

Consistent with our transformation plan, today we announced that we are selling 38 of our publications and will focus our future efforts the Chicago Sun-Times newspaper, Chicago Reader and Splash. A copy of our press release is attached.

This transaction allows Wrapports to invest in our digital strategy and to ensure that the Chicago Sun-Times newspaper remains journalistically independent and on sound financial footing for many years to come.

Employees who work directly for the various publications being sold will become employees of the Chicago Tribune. We will be working on transition services over the next few months and will have more information on this process over the next few weeks.

I want express our appreciation to our colleagues who are joining Tribune and wish them all the best. As we move forward, I am asking that all of us stay focused and continue to work hard for our readers and advertisers.

We will be holding information meetings over the next few weeks to keep you updated on this process. In the mean time, please send me any questions at timothy.knight@wrapports.com.

Best regards,

Tim

Here is the memo to employees Friday from executives of Tribune Media Group:

Colleagues –

Welcome to Chicago Tribune Media Group.

We have long been admirers of your business and your commitment to the communities you serve. That spirit aligns with our mission to deliver premium local news and information across all platforms.

Our goal, working together, is to maintain and build upon your market-leading presence, enhance your digital capabilities, and champion the brand loyalty you have created in the communities you serve.

Next week, Bob Fleck, Publisher & General Manager of CTMG’s suburban operations, and I will meet with senior leaders, and each of you, at various locations across Chicagoland. It is our intention to outline our plans for a strong and successful integration and to answer any questions you may have.

As we become one unit, it is important we stay focused over the next two months – the busiest time of year for consumers and clients. We know you have a lot of questions. Please remain focused and continue doing what you do best to serve your customers. Transition details will be forthcoming. We will host a series of informational gatherings on Monday, with an invite to follow shortly.

Rest assured, your payroll and benefits will remain intact through the end of the year. Representatives from human resources will be at the informational gatherings to help answer any questions you may have.

Please see the attached press release for more details.

We look forward to our future together,

Tony Hunter and Bob Fleck