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Briefings: Alden Wolfs down Tribune, Including the Courant…

Hartford Courant Building (former)

Bye, Felicia–on multiple dimensions. (via Google Street View)

It happened.

On Friday, shareholders for Tribune Publishing, which owns the Hartford Courant among other titles, agreed to sell the company to Alden Global Capital. Alden, a hedge fund, has a nasty reputation for tossing newsgathering resources overboard for profit’s sake. Staff at Tribune Publications shuddered at the prospect of their already weary newspapers falling into Alden’s grip.

With a competing bid Maryland hotelier Stewart Bainum had attempted to organize wanting for funds, hopes rested on Patrick Soon-Shiong. He had snapped up the Los Angeles Times from Tribune only a few years ago. However, those hopes disintegrated after Soon-Shiong announced he would abstain. Despite some confusion about process, Alden appears to now own Tribune and its properties.

“Today, Tribune Publishing shareholders voted to put profit and greed over local news in our country,” union representing various Tribune papers said in a statement.

“While we are saddened by the turn of events, we know that our work over the past year — to build allies in the community and to raise awareness about Alden — is not in vain,” the statement continued.  They also expressed hope those allies could help protect local news moving forward.

A spokesperson for Tribune did not immediately return a request for comment on the sale. Alden could not be reached for comment. An investor statement Tribune released says little other than confirming the sale. Tribune will become a privately held company with no listing on public exchanges once the transaction closes on Tuesday

Last weekend the Courant Guild, which represents reporters at the Hartford Courant, held one of many Tribune employee actions nationwide to oppose the sale.

The Courant, which has a reputation as the oldest continuously published newspaper in the United States, has endured years of painful cuts. Some of the most dramatic blows came last year when it closed its presses in Hartford and outsourced printing to The Republican in Springfield. The paper vacated its building and closed its newsroom shortly thereafter.

Alex Putterman, a reporter and member of the Courant Guild, echoed the unions’ sentiment about Alden.

“We’ve made clear what our position was heading into this sale,” he said in an interview. Referring to Alden, Putterman continued, “We don’t think they are interested in investing in journalism.”

However, the axe is yet to fall in Harford.

Courant Guild Rally May 2021

The Courant Guild’s fight goes on, in the shadow of first their former building and now Alden’s purchase. (WMP&I)

Putterman said the Courant Guild was not giving up, noting that Alden has sold its papers before. The union has campaigned for local ownership almost since the Courant newsroom organized with a unit of the NewsGuild. Thus, the effort to find local ownership long predates Alden’s march on Tribune.

Moreover, there is hope that Hartford area business luminaries could fund a purchase. Guild members declined to comment about who might buy the Courant, but Alden’s purchase is not the end of the story.

“Our goal doesn’t change. We want local ownership for the Hartford Courant,” Putterman said. “We had thought or hoped that somebody could negotiate with somebody like Stewart Bainum. Instead, they will have to negotiate with Alden.”