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Chance The Investor? Here Are The Bidders That Could Save The Sun-Times & Reader From Tronc

By Stephen Gossett in News on Jun 5, 2017 6:20PM

Getty Images / Photo: Scott Olson

An erstwhile alderman, a hedge fund operator and a billionaire businessman. According to reports, those are the principles behind three separate potential bids to purchase the Sun-Times and the Chicago Reader—and foil what would otherwise be further consolidation of the Chicago media landscape, by keeping the papers from falling into the clutches of Tronc, the owners of the Tribune. According to Politico, one of those interests even approached Chance the Rapper and his father, Ken Bennett, a former aide to Mayor Rahm Emanuel, as they searched for investors.

Tronc announced its intent to buy the Sun-Times and the Reader back in mid-May, with a closing date for the acquisition possible as early as June 1. But last week, the Department of Justice stepped in and delayed the sale, offering potential suitors until Monday, June 5 at 5 p.m. to put forth a deal.

Veteran media reporter Robert Feder reported on Sunday that two possible separate bidders include a group fronted by former 43rd Ward alderman (and unsuccessful gubernatorial candidate) Edwin Eisendrath and one led byThane Ritche, who heads up the hedge fund Ritchie Capital Management.

An interesting nugget in the drama: the Eisendrath faction apparently includes the large union coalition the Chicago Federation of Labor, according to Feder. And according to Politico, interested parties associated with the union wing have even reached out to Chance as they tried to solidify their play:

"In pursuit of investors, those pushing the movement were in discussions with Chance the Rapper and his father, Ken Bennett, according to a source with knowledge of the discussions. Neither, however, as of yet has committed to investing."

The third reported possible bidder—well, four if you count Tronc—is the family of Chicago billionaire Neil Bluhm. According to Crain's, who first reports Bluhm's potential interest, "Bluhm has been a big contributor to Democrats, including Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, and may believe his ownership would better preserve the historically left-leaning bent of the Sun-Times."

David Roeder, of the Chicago Newspaper Guild said last week that most employees at the Sun-Times and Reader oppose the sale to Tronc. Ahead of the DOJ's announcement to delay Tronc's purchase to allow other bidders to come forth, some staff at the Reader helped circulate an online petition calling for "No News Monopoly."

Feder wisely notes that the already-in-place deal that sees Tronc print and distribute the Sun-Times means they seem to still be best positioned for the buy. At the same time, according to Politico, a source said the possibility of a second delayed deadline also exists. Whatever happens next, it's reassuring to see the quest to keep Chicago a true two-paper town gaining steam.