Hoping to thwart Chicago Tribune owner tronc, a former Chicago alderman and a suburban hedge fund manager are expected to step up with competing bids for the Chicago Sun-Times and the Chicago Reader, according to multiple sources.
Monday is the last day prospective bidders may provide an initial offer, according to an agreement between the U.S. Department of Justice Antitrust Division and Wrapports Holdings LLC, parent company of the two publications. If an acceptable offer is not received by 5 p.m., the daily Sun-Times and the weekly Reader are on track to be sold to tronc, which signed a letter of intent last month.
Sources have confirmed at least two groups — one led by the former alderman and the other led by the hedge fund manager — have made their interest known to the Justice Department and Wrapports. Others also may come forward.
The former alderman is Edwin Eisendrath, who represented the 43rd Ward on Chicago’s North Side from 1987 to 1993 and unsuccessfully sought the Democratic nomination for governor of Illinois against incumbent Rod Blagojevich in 2006. Eisendrath now is managing partner of StrateSphere Global Initiatives, a consulting firm aiding young adults in emerging economies.
Eisendrath’s partners in the group expected to bid for the papers, sources said, include the Chicago Federation of Labor, an umbrella organization for about 320 unions affiliated with the AFL-CIO in Cook County.
Eisendrath’s wife, Jennifer Schulze, was news director of Tribune Broadcasting WGN-Channel 9 from 1993 to 1996. Earlier she was a producer at ABC-owned WLS-Channel 7 and NBC-owned WMAQ-Channel 5.
The other identified potential bidder is Thane Ritchie, CEO of Ritchie Capital Management, the private equity firm he founded in 1997 in west suburban Wheaton.
Ritchie previously sought to buy the Sun-Times in 2009 before it was acquired by an investment group led by the late James Tyree, CEO of Mesirow Financial. After Tyree’s death in 2011, the group sold the paper to Wrapports, then led by Michael Ferro, now chairman of tronc.
In 2010 Ritchie also made an unsuccessful bid for Newsweek magazine.
According to a Chicago magazine profile by Carol Felsenthal, Ritchie is the biological son of former Washington Post reporter Scott Armstrong, who coauthored The Brethren: Inside the Supreme Court with Bob Woodward. Ritchie was adopted by his stepfather, Joe Ritchie, a legendary Chicago options and commodities trader. He was raised in the Wheaton-Glen Ellyn area, and was an All-American linebacker at Wheaton College.
The biggest obstacle to any bidder, sources said, is the $25 million annual contract Wrapports has with tronc to print and distribute the Sun-Times. As long as that is in effect, the Chicago Tribune owner would appear to have the upper hand.