Fri. Dec 3rd, 2021


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Stories about the sick newspaper business usually contain fantastically wealthy benefactors who claim good intentions as the heroes who keep the lights on. There are Jeff Bezos and The Washington Post, biotechnology billionaire Patrick Soon-Shiong and The Los Angeles Times, and Laurene Powell Jobs, the widow of Steve Jobs and the majority owner of The Atlantic. But the reality is somewhat different.

Today, about half of America’s newspapers are controlled by private equity, hedge funds and other investment groups, which have been consolidating the industry rapidly since the post-2008 financial crisis. One name stands above the rest, Alden Global Capital. The New York Hedge Fund is notoriously private, but since 2007, Alden and its top executives have brought bigger and bigger regional titles, including Chicago Tribune, Denver Post and Boston Herald. Those purchases, numbering in the hundreds, have garnered greater attention from U.S. officials, unions, media watchdogs and disgruntled journalists.

The main complaint – stop the destruction of local newspapers. Alden has been accused of scaling down the companies he buys with a brutally effective zero-based budget strategy, straight from the book of Wall Street’s most feared activist investors. The Alden recipe, getting rid of the newsroom and selling the property, helps to recover the purchase price of the newspaper. Then go through each line item in the newspaper’s issue page and make cuts. Retrenchments have become the norm. The result was that ghost newspapers could not produce much in the way of original local journalism. However, Heath Freeman, the president of Alden, does not see it that way. He believes he is the one who saves newspapers that would otherwise be forced to close.

Alden Capital is not the only player in the ghost newspaper trade. Small and medium-sized regional and local newspapers have long been treated as an anxious asset class and tossed around by investors for short-term gains. Fortress Investment Group, which is controlled by SoftBank, and Chatham Asset Management all challenge Alden for a place on the throne as the leading guardian or destroyer of newspapers.



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