Morning Call parent company bought by hedge fund

The Morning Call on North Sixth Street in Allentown. PHOTO/FILE


Tribune Publishing Co., the parent company of the Morning Call newspaper in Allentown is being acquired by New York-based Hedge Fund, Alden Global Capital.

Tribune announced late Tuesday that it entered into a definitive merger agreement under which Alden will acquire all of the outstanding shares of Tribune stock for $17.25 per share.

The hedge fund already owns 11.6 million shares of Tribune stock, or about 31.6% of the company’s outstanding shares.

This may not be good news for the call, which has already suffered newsroom cuts and is vacating its North Sixth Street headquarters.

The company has a reputation for making drastic cuts at local newspapers it acquires.

A recent article in Vanity Fair described Alden as a “hedge fund vampire that bleeds newspapers dry.”

Philip G. Franklin, chairman of the board and a member of the special committee on the acquisition commented on the move.

“Over the past year, the Company has taken a number of actions to adapt to an ever-changing business and industry environment, including the impact of COVID-19. These actions included strengthening the Company’s financial position, driving digital growth and investing in high-quality content to better serve customers, employees and communities. This positioning enabled the special committee to negotiate a premium, all-cash price, which the committee concluded was superior to the available alternatives.”

In a press release, the Tribune said that the purchase price represents a premium of 45% to the closing price of Tribune common stock on Dec. 11, 2020, the last trading day prior to receiving Alden’s proposal, and a 21% increase from Alden’s initial offer of $14.25 per share.

The agreement was approved by Tribune’s Board of Directors following the recommendation by the special committee of Tribune’s Board formed to evaluate Alden’s proposal and potential alternatives.

The transaction is expected to close in the second quarter of 2021.

Including the Morning Call operates local media businesses in eight markets. Other papers include the Chicago Tribune, New York Daily News and the Baltimore Sun.

Industry veterans to lead Lehigh Valley Business and Central Penn Business Journal news and sales teams

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Lehigh Valley Business and The Central Penn Business Journal have hired two industry veterans to lead the news and sales teams of both media outlets.

Former Reading Eagle Editor-in-Chief, Garry Lenton, will oversee both newsroom staffs as the teams’ managing editor. Lenton has deep roots in the central and eastern regions of the state, having spent 27 years at The Patriot-News/PennLive, and seven at the Reading Eagle.

“I am thrilled for the opportunity to become part of two high-performing newsrooms who have helped set the standard for business reporting in the state,” Lenton said. “I believe in the power of journalism to play a vital role in the quality of life in a community, and reporting on economic development and the opportunities it creates is a key part of that quality.”

At the Eagle, Lenton helped to create the popular Berks Country magazine section, which went on to win numerous state and national awards. Under his direction in 2018-19, the Eagle won the Division 2 sweepstakes award in the Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association’s Keystone Press Awards for the seventh consecutive year. He also made changes that resulted in double-digit growth in the page views on the newspaper’s website and steep increases in digital subscriptions.

Lenton is a member and former president of the Pennsylvania Society of News Editors, and a former member of Investigative Reporters and Editors. He and his wife, Peg, live in Lebanon County. They have three adult children.

Anthony Falduto, a Lancaster resident with a proven track record in business development, media sales and digital marketing, will join CPBJ, LVB, as well as Central Penn Parent, as it sales director. Falduto has held several leadership positions in various national media markets, including BH Media (Berkshire Hathaway), WorkWave LLC and NJ Press Media-Gannett. At BH Media he led the national sales and market development for more than 70 BH Media properties throughout the United States.

“I am very excited to be part of the team,” Falduto said. “I look forward to engaging in the community, partnering with the many businesses located in our markets and continuing to help develop prosperous sponsorships, events and solutions that will help our clients succeed.”

Each newsroom will still run independently, but have a more streamlined approach to the overall operations. The knowledge that Lenton and Falduto bring to the table will be key to that growth.

“Garry and Anthony will help leverage the business successes across publications, accelerate our growth and provide new opportunities for our staff and clients,” said Suzanne Fischer-Huettner, group publisher for BridgeTower Media, the parent company for CPBJ, Parent and LVB.

“The goal is to continue increasing our reach with readers, advertisers and partners while staying true to our hyper-local focus,” Fischer-Huettner said. “Digital growth will be key to that success.”
In addition to the Lenton and Falduto hires, the group is also planning to hire a regional special projects editor and a regional business reporter.

Cathy Hirko, associate publisher/editorial director, will continue to lead the editorial direction of all three newsrooms and will work with Falduto to take over the sales responsibilities held by Mike O’Rourke, who is no longer with the company. Hirko will also help grow the group’s core events and launch new ones that both recognize individual achievement and business excellence.

“This is an exciting time in our Pennsylvania market,” Hirko said. “Our leadership is giving us the resources we need to build on all the great work we do day-in and day-out. Like any smart business, we are making these moves to strengthen our growth prospects and provide our people with the right team, tools and strategy to succeed.”

Lenton and Falduto begin working with both teams this month.


Reading Eagle says 81 job cuts will come with impending sale

With the impending sale of the Reading Eagle Co. to Media News Group of Denver, the company has issued a notice that calls for the elimination of 81 jobs effective June 30 – the day the sale is expected to be complete.

In May, MediaNews, a multiplatform news and information company, was the sole qualified bidder for the Reading-based media firm, which filed bankruptcy in March of this year.

MediaNews, which also goes by the name Digital First Media, operates about 200 publications around the country, including the Pottstown Mercury and Berks-Mont News.

The Reading Eagle Co. is the parent company of the Reading Eagle newspaper and radio station WEEU AM 830. It also owns a commercial printer, a marketing company and a weekly newspaper.

The company has a total of 221 employees. A WARN Act notice had been put out last month that gave the possibility all positions could be eliminated in the event a buyer wasn’t found. WARN stands for Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification.

The 81 jobs represents just under a third of the company’s staff.

Potential buyer IDed for bankrupt Reading Eagle Co.

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The Reading Eagle is reporting that its parent company has attracted a qualified bidder to purchase the company out of bankruptcy.

That bidder was MediaNews Group of Denver, a locally focused multiplatform news and information company with publications around the country, including the Pottstown Mercury and Berks-Mont News.

In a statement to employees published on the paper’s website, the Reading Eagle Co.’s president and CEO, Peter Barbey, said:

“We have received two bids to purchase Reading Eagle Company’s assets. One of the bids is unqualified. The other bid is qualified. The qualified bid is from MediaNews Group, which also operates under the name Digital First Media. Since there is only one qualified bid, the auction has been cancelled. The qualified bid has neither been accepted nor rejected, and we continue to work with MediaNews Group to resolve certain outstanding issues.”

The Reading Eagle Co. is the parent company of the Reading Eagle newspaper and radio station WEEU AM 830.

It has 221 employees.

Any sale would need to be approved by a bankruptcy judge.

Efforts to reach MediaNews Group have not been successful.