Apollo Global Management has engaged in takeover negotiations with Tronc, the publishing giant that owns the Chicago Tribune, New York Daily News and several other titles across the US, according to the New York Post.
The move would be a rare foray into mainstream newspaper publishing for a buyout heavyweight. While hedge funds and alternative investors such as Alden Global Capital and Fortress Investment Group have made recent headlines for a piratical approach to newspaper ownership, firms like Apollo have typically shied away from an industry that's now well into its second decade of trying to figure out how to generate consistent profits in the internet age.
About two months ago, Tronc agreed to sell its Los Angeles Times and San Diego Union-Tribune imprints to healthcare mogul Patrick Soon-Shiong, the culmination of a contentious spat between the LA Times newsroom and Tronc leadership. Stock in Tronc (NASDAQ: TRNC) has dipped since the sale agreement, falling from $21.55 per share on February 7 to $16.46 at Thursday's close, a 23.6% decline. Tronc ticked up Friday to end the week at $17.15 per share, with a market cap of just over $600 million.
Tronc has engaged in various takeover talks over the past two years, including 2016 discussions of a possible merger with rival Gannett, a move that would have created
the largest newspaper publisher in the US.
Across the wider publishing sphere—including books, magazines and online outlets—private equity firms engaged in a relative rush of activity during 2017. Their 28 completed deals in the US
was the highest total in six years, per the PitchBook Platform, dwarfing the 16 transactions each executed in 2015 and 2016. Men's Journal and cannabis publication High Times were among the titles to change hands last year.
Three-plus months into 2018, though, last year's activity is looking like an aberration. Firms have executed just four investments in the space, again per PitchBook data, on pace for a decade low.