Local investors to buy Chicago Sun-Times

December 21, 2011 (CHICAGO)

The group, led by some local investors, is buying the Sun-Times and 39 suburban newspapers. The union representing Sun-Times staffers said it's been informed that the sale is a done deal.

Maybe six. It could be seven. Sun-Times columnist Neil Steinberg has lost count of how many owners he's had.

"I tried to tally it up. Maybe six," Steinberg said. He, like the rest of the paper's staff, have endured ownership changes, bankruptcy, lay-offs and one former boss who went to prison for pillaging the paper. Yet Steinberg and many others still believe in the scrappy Sun-Times.

"We have trained people, experienced people who go out over the city and they try to find the most interesting relevant stories and bring it to a mass audience the next day. If that disappears so people can play Farmville on their Facebook pages it would be a huge loss," Steinberg said.

Enter: Michael Ferro and John Canning, two of Chicago's big money players who are poised to become the paper's new owners. They represent a team known for being tech savvy.

"For that reason you have to wonder what will be the future of the Sun-Times : Are they going to more of an on-line-centric newspaper and less of a newspaper you read when you're going on the el?" Shia Kapos, Crain's Chicago Business senior reporter, said.

The Sun-Times staff has suffered as result of the turmoil that's plagued the paper's ownership. In 2004, the newspaper had 190 editorial employees, according to the union. Today that number is said to be 88.

The group's suburban papers under the Pioneer Press name have been downsized as well.

"One community used to have three reporters now there's one. Me, I have to cover six. If you want to stay profitable you have to stay on top of the news," David Pollard, Newspaper Guild president, Pioneer Press reporter, said.

"I don't want to speak for these guys, I've never met them, but from what I hear they're practical Chicago businessmen and that's a good sign. They're not from Mumbai. No offense to Mumbai but they're from here and that's important," Steinberg said.

The sale of the Sun-Times is expected to be formally announced in the coming days. Crain's reports the price tag is upwards of $20-million.

ABC7' s attempts to reach the buyers and the paper's current publisher were unsuccessful.

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