Without Tronc Offer, Chicago Sun-Times Could Close

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The owner of the Chicago Sun-Times, the city’s second-largest paper, may shutter it if the U.S. Department of Justice blocks Tronc Inc. (NASDAQ: TRNC), the owner of the largest paper in the city, from buying it. There may be a second bidder, but it is unclear whether it can raise the funds to make a legitimate offer.

According to The New York Post, Sun-Times owner Wrapports will not wait for a long review by the Justice Department. A group of wealthy Chicago residents and some of the paper’s unions say they can raise $11 million to close a deal. The consortium is led by local politician Edwin Eisendrath.

The Sun-Times unions and staff have pushed a campaign to keep the paper out of the hands of Tronc, based on their belief that the company would make sharp job cuts as part of a consolidation and sharply decrease the size of its newsroom. With a skeleton staff, they argue, the paper will not be a viable “second voice” among Chicago’s print media.

Tronc owns the Chicago Tribune, L.A. Times, San Diego Union-Tribune and Baltimore Sun, among other papers. Its revenue last year was $1.6 billion.

Chicago is one of the few major American cities with two papers. New York City has three, which are The New York Times, New York Post and New York Daily News. Detroit has two, the Free Press and News. Washington, D.C., has The Washington Post and Washington Times. A half a century ago, virtually every city of any size had two papers, and many had three or more.

Plummeting print advertising and circulation levels have decimated newspapers. While most have some digital revenue, it is rare that this balances the loss of print sales. Based on all accounts, the Sun-Times loses millions of dollars, and to survive it needs huge cost cuts or an investor that will underwrite those losses.