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Tronc Acquired The New York Daily News For $1, Plus Liabilities

By Stephen Gossett in News on Sep 5, 2017 3:25PM

New York Daily News

Tronc—the Chicago-based company that publishes the Chicago Tribune and the LA Times, and owns dozens of other media properties—has officially plunged into the New York media market. The publisher confirmed on Tuesday in a press release that it had acquired the long-running, scrappy tabloid the New York Daily News.

The surprise purchase—which was first reported by the New York Times on Monday evening—ups the number of tronc's daily newspapers to ten.

Both the financials of the deal and tronc's characterization of the acquisition should ring familiar with Chicagoans. The Daily News was sold for just $1, plus the assumption of operational and pension costs, according to the Tribune—a similar deal to the one a labor-backed group recently made to purchase the Sun-Times (if the group hadn't stepped in, tronc was lined up to acquire the paper). The Daily News' liabilities could be in excess of $30 million, according to the New York Times.

And tronc leaned on a bit of the uninspiring corporate-speak that media commentators have already pilloried the company for in the past. As Justin Dearborn, tronc CEO, said in a release:

"We are excited to welcome the New York Daily News team to the tronc family, and we look forward to working with them to serve new audiences and marketers while delivering value for our shareholders. As part of the tronc portfolio, the New York Daily News will provide us with another strategic platform for growing our digital business, expanding our reach and broadening our services for advertisers and marketers."

The paper had been owned by real estate honcho and McLaughlin Group regular Mort Zuckerman since 1993, when he bought it for $36 million. Before that time, the paper was actually owned by the Tribune Company for some 72 years. The Tribune Company evolved into Tribune Media and Tribune Publishing, which spun off tronc.

While much of the media landscape was busy simply picking its jaw off the floor, we couldn't help but notice what might be a bit of relish on the part of the Daily News' chief tabloid rivals, the New York Post, between the lines:

"Tronc has agreed to assume the News’ pension liability and other debt in exchange for taking over the tabloid and its dwindling circulation. Only $1 will be exchanged, the Tribune reported.

The News’ own online account of the deal made no reference to its debt, circulation woes or $1 price tag.

In 2015, sources estimated that the News’ long-term pension liability was in the range of $100 million to $130 million.

The nearly 100-year-old newspaper, owned by real-estate mogul Mort Zuckerman, loses about $30 million annually."

As for the Daily News itself, it noted the sale on Tuesday's cover—without losing sight of its tabloid-y ways.

“The New York Daily News is a venerable New York City institution,” said New York Daily News co-Publisher Eric Gertler in a release. “We believe that under tronc’s leadership, the New York Daily News will maintain its tradition of excellence in journalism and continue to be a critical voice for millions of print and online readers.”