Dear Dr. Soon-Shiong:
When you bought the Los Angeles Times, we cheered in Chicago.
We heard how much hope you brought to L.A.’s newspaper. We saw what you wanted to do for your community. We knew you believed in journalism. And we believed in you and your journalists.
Today, we still do. But now the newspapers in Tribune Publishing need your help.
On Friday, Tribune shareholders will vote on whether to accept an offer from Alden Global Capital to buy the company and take it private. As Tribune Publishing’s second-largest shareholder, you can single-handedly keep Alden from sealing the deal.
We respectfully ask you to do so. Please vote no. Alden ownership would be a disaster for Chicago, democracy and society at large.
It would likely also be an immediate financial disaster for Tribune Publishing itself. The hedge fund’s bid includes the right to saddle the company with $375 million in debt to finance the purchase.
Beyond that, Alden’s reputation for dramatically cutting newspapers to wring profits is well-deserved. At 12 newspapers it owns, which range from from the Denver Post to the Pottstown Mercury, Alden has cut unionized staff from 1,552 to 365 — a 76 percent drop.
The Chicago Tribune’s unionized staff has shrunk more than 30 percent since late 2018, with much of that occurring since Alden became the majority shareholder and gained seats on the corporate board in December 2019.
Our newsroom is still able to do great work, but it is getting harder every day. Alden as top shareholder is an ongoing crisis, but Alden in full control will likely destroy Tribune publications.
Newspapers are part of the glue that hold communities together. Without a strong Tribune, the third largest city in the United States risks losing a voice that has helped guide Chicago for 174 years.
Our journalists work for the public good in every realm. We keep people informed about public health, sports, arts, entertainment, the environment, business and beer — all the things that enrich our readers’ lives.
As Chicago Tribune Guild president, I can tell you our journalists are my heroes.
Early in the pandemic, one of our reporters was the first to enter Chicago area hospitals and document the coronavirus’s siege. During last year’s civil unrest, our journalists were on the street reporting firsthand. A photographer was struck in the head. Reporters were tear-gassed by police. They kept working.
Our reporters keep a close eye on government officials. We recently published an exhaustive investigation about Chicago officials’ failures to enforce fire safety laws, leading to tragedy. People died in buildings the city knew were firetraps.
Politicians know we have been degreasing palms since the 1800s. Federal prosecutors recently alleged that a Tribune report on illegal lobbying scared an allegedly corrupt alderman even as he was scheming.
“In light of the Chicago Tribune expose, (the alderman) was conscious that his activities were unlawful,” prosecutors said in a court filing.
As the City Hall reporter focused on covering Mayor Lori Lightfoot, I can tell you we take our responsibilities to holding powerful people accountable to heart. Our team just won a National Headliner Award in political reporting for a series of stories about the mayor’s broken promises.
We understand that not every fight is your fight. We’re not asking you to buy the company, though that would be great. But we are asking you to use your power to stop Alden from consolidating its own.
Maybe Stewart Bainum, the Baltimore civic leader who’s led a competing bid, can work out a deal to buy Tribune and save its newspapers. Maybe someone else will come along.
In the meantime, on behalf of the city we love, we are fighting every day to keep Alden from taking full control. You can stop it. Please do.