Baltimore Business Journal: Baltimore Sun to be acquired by nonprofit headed by Choice Hotels chairman

By Melody Simmons
Feb. 16, 2021

The Baltimore Sun is slated to be acquired from Tribune Publishing by a nonprofit headed by Maryland businessman and former state legislator Stewart Bainum Jr.

The move was announced Feb. 16 as the board of Chicago-based Tribune Publishing announced it was merging with private investment group Alden Global Capital in a $630 million deal. The merger, expected to close in the second quarter, will put Tribune’s newspapers, including the Chicago Tribune, New York Daily News, Hartford Courant, South Florida Sun Sentinel and Orlando Sentinel, under new ownership. Alden currently owns nearly 32% of shares in Tribune Publishing and has sought the merger for several months.

But concurrent with that deal, Alden also signed a “non-binding term sheet” to sell The Baltimore Sun to the Sunlight for All Institute, a “public charity” former by Bainum, the chairman of Montgomery County-based Choice Hotels International and a former state delegate and senator. The release gave no further details on the sale. The Baltimore Sun reported the acquisition will also include the paper’s affiliated community newspapers, which include the Capital Gazette in Annapolis and the Carroll County Times.

A Baltimore-based group sought to acquire The Sun and operate it as a nonprofit news organization earlier last year. The group included the Abell Foundation and the Goldseker Foundation and developer David Cordish and other investors like former Baltimore County Executive Ted Venetoulis.

The quest to remove the Sun from the Tribune Publishing umbrella has been ongoing for more than a year, driven by what some newspaper staffers described as a lack of faith in the direction of the national publishing chain and dissatisfaction about potential Alden ownership.

Donald Fry, President and CEO of the Greater Baltimore Committee, welcomed the news of the Sun’s acquisition. He issued the following statement:

“Nonprofit ownership of the Baltimore Sun and its affiliated media properties should relieve some of the financial pressure that metro news organizations have been under to stay profitable as the digital revolution continues to disrupt the business model. Hopefully, having a news organization with some Maryland ties will prove beneficial if it makes a strong commitment to dedicating adequate resources to covering local news aggressively.”

Source: Baltimore Business Journal

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