The Chicago Sun-Times has new owners. And it’s not rival Chicago Tribune.
The struggling tabloid, as well as The Chicago Reader, were sold to former Chicago Alderman Edwin Eisendrath and a group of investors that includes The Chicago Federation of Labor, four other unions, former ABC7 anchor, Linda Yu and corporate turnaround specialist Bill Brandt.
“It’s a great town as you know and it will continue to have two great newspapers,” Eisendrath said on Twitter in announcing the deal.
The sale of the Sun-Times by its owner, Wrapports, followed two months of negotiations, public pitches for bidders and close guidance from federal antitrust regulators. Sources familiar with the deal put the price tag at $1, or the cost of a single copy of the storied tabloid.
Eisendrath put together the group of investors, though he would not discuss the terms of the sale nor how much money each investor gave. While they promise to be an independent news voice for Chicago, some question the influence of organized labor, especially when it comes to political endorsements.
“The union doesn’t plan to get involve in editorial content of newspaper,” Eisendrath is quoted by WLS-TV as saying.
Since being founded by Marshall Field III almost 70 years ago, the Chicago Sun-Times has changed hands several times. Owners have included media mogul Rupert Murdoch, newspaper magnate Conrad Black and businessman Jim Tyree. Now, Chicago’s second paper belongs to a diverse and big group.
With the Sun-Times losing about $4.5 million per year, the purchase still could prove to be expensive for the new owners as they are taking on a large amount of debt. However, it’s reported that they believe they can grow subscriptions by expanding their video and digital platforms.
Chicago-based Tronc, which owns the Tribune, Los Angeles Times and seven other major newspapers, announced May 15 that it had entered into a nonbinding letter of intent to acquire Wrapports for an undisclosed price. The Sun-Times is obligated by a $25 million annual printing and distribution contract with the Chicago Tribune through 2019.
While Tronc pledged that the 69-year-old Sun-Times would remain an independent news operation, the Justice Department intervened, seeking to preserve competition through separate ownership.
That is when The Harvard-educated Eisendrath stepped in. He served as alderman for Chicago’s affluent 43rd Ward, which includes parts of Lincoln Park, Old Town and the Gold Coast, from 1987 to 1993, when he resigned to become regional administrator for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
In 2006, Eisendrath unsuccessfully challenged then-incumbent Gov. Rod Blagojevich in the Democratic gubernatorial primary. Eisendrath made an unsuccessful Democratic primary bid for Congress against Sidney Yates in 1990.
“The little guy won here,” said Chicago Federation of Labor President Jorge Ramirez to the Sun-Times. “This is about fair, honest and balanced reporting. The Sun-Times has a rich history of that.”
Follow Colin Costello on Twitter @colincostello10.