Investors agrees to buy Sun-Times Media Group

September 9, 2009 4:54:11 PM PDT
A Chicago investment group headed by Jim Tyree has agreed to buy the Chicago Sun-Times Media Group for $5 million. The group would also take on $20 million in debt.

At first that might not seem like a lot of money for one of the biggest media properties Chicago has ever had. But Jim Tyree has a track record of turning around distressed companies and he thinks the Chicago Sun-Times and its stable of local papers and Web sites offers content he can make money on -- no matter what the future of traditional newspapers turns out to be.

"Whether it is delivered in newsprint or kindles or any other way that is going to evolve over the next three to five years we will be there with great content," said Tyree.

It's the sunny future envisioned by a Chicago titan who has spent 30 years turning around distressed companies and making lots of money. But Jim Tyree's Sun-Times Media Group Holding LLC is starting out by getting management to cut wages by 8 percent immediately for non-unionized staff. That's on top of a 15 percent cut unionized employees accepted when the company filed for Chapter 11 at the end of March.

"The past environment in working at a newspaper when they were wildly profitable is gone. The world has changed and I am sorry to be the catalyst at delivering that message but frankly that message was delivered March 31st when this business went into bankruptcy," said Tyree.

That he says was the end of a difficult period when the paper was led by international media mogul Conrad Black, now in federal prison for stealing money from shareholders. The paper carries a $600 million debt to the IRS from that period -- an albatross for any future buyer.

Not having seen the details of the offer to buy the paper, the Chicago newspaper guild, which represents 600 employees, said only in a statement, "?we certainly want to be able to work with the company to formulate a plan and do whatever is necessary to save the company and save jobs... we are ready to negotiate."

Meanwhile, Sun-Times employees wait for the story of their workplace to unfold.

"There has been a black cloud following this company for afar too many years and now we actually have some sunshine," said Tammy Chase, Chicago Sun-Times spokesperson.

And just outside the offices of the city's other paper, also in bankruptcy, people applaud the notion that Chicago must have two newspapers.

"With more and more national news and national papers, having two papers for Chicago has been very special. And I hope we can continue to do that," said Andrea Kramer.

Bankruptcy filings say the Sun-Times lost $3.8 million as recently as July and has less than $19.3 million on hand. Getting that number to zero, Tyree told ABC7 is imperative if his group is going to go ahead.

Others could step up and tell the bankruptcy court they are interested in the sun times, and then the judge would have to hold an auction. Right now, really nobody else has come forward.


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