A Maryland hotel magnate and a Swiss billionaire have made a bid for Tribune Publishing Co. that the newspaper chain is expected to favor over a takeover deal it already struck with hedge fund Alden Global Capital LLC.
A special committee of Tribune’s board has determined that a roughly $680 million, $18.50-a-share bid submitted late last week by Choice Hotels International Inc. Chairman Stewart Bainum and Hansjörg Wyss is reasonably likely to lead to a proposal that is superior to Alden’s $635 million deal, people familiar with the matter said. That is legal deal-speak indicating Alden will likely need to raise its bid or risk losing the deal.
The decision came after the two men indicated they plan to personally contribute more than $600 million combined, up from a previous total of $200 million, the people said.
Now that the group has submitted a fully financed bid, it will get access to private financial data to conduct due diligence and negotiate other terms, a big step toward completing an agreement that could replace Alden’s, they said. There is no guarantee the group will succeed in doing so, and it is still possible it could change its offer or walk away after reviewing the company’s finances.
If Alden loses the deal, it would mark a stunning, 11th-hour turnaround for the New York hedge fund, and a major victory for critics who say its model of aggressive cost-cutting has hurt the local news industry. Alden had spent nearly a year-and-a-half positioning itself to take over Tribune, publisher of nine large-market daily newspapers including the Chicago Tribune, New York Daily News and the Baltimore Sun.