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

Feb 17, 2021

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

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, lawmakers, during a Connecticut General Assembly 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 have even discussed trying to get small businesses to come together and buy the paper before severe changes are implemented by the new corporate owners.

Alden Global, among other hedge-funds that have got into newspaper publishing, have become known for shuttering and down-sizing newspaper companies to save money and earn a profit. Journalism advocacy groups say that hurts communities with less local news and more aggregated news on a more national scale.

The Courant’s likely new owners have been making a name for themselves by buying shares and minority ownerships of media and newspaper companies over the past decade. Alden Global first 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 was created by a special act of the legislature in 1887. In 2020, the paper was forced to move most reporters and workers to 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 get out of the hold of Alden Global, being purchased by a nonprofit formed by businessman and philanthropist Stewart Bainum Jr. in Maryland.