By Sophia Tareen
CHICAGO — An investment group led by a former Chicago alderman and a coalition of labor unions are the new owners of the Chicago Sun-Times, officials announced Thursday in an unusual deal that revived questions about media ownership and influence over coverage.
ST Acquisition Holdings LLC made the acquisition official in a statement detailing an afternoon news conference. Former City Council member Edwin Eisendrath and representatives from the Chicago Federation of Labor and Sun-Times were expected to attend.
“We are investing in a journalistic voice that’s genuine, accurate and consistently reporting news that matters to the people of Chicago,” Eisendrath, who will serve as CEO of the Chicago Sun-Times, said in an emailed statement.
Thanks! Looking forward to helping independent journalism thrive just like you do in Rockford. https://t.co/WATqfnaQlg
— edwin eisendrath (@eisendrath) July 12, 2017
Eisendrath, who left the City Council in 1993 when he was appointed to a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development post, submitted a bid last month after Sun-Times owner Wrapports LLC announced it would enter into discussions with Tronc Inc., which owns the rival Chicago Tribune, to acquire the paper.
He said he was concerned that if Tronc took over the newspaper, the sale would lead to the demise of the Sun-Times and the two-newspaper town, even though Tronc promised to run two separate papers. Tronc also owns the Los Angeles Times and other major newspapers.
Experts called the deal rare, particularly with labor union involvement, something that would be heightened even further in union-friendly territory like Chicago.
In leading up to the sale, the federation characterized the newspaper as “progressive but not elite,” which fit with the “the strong vision we have for the future of this paper.” The Chicago Federation of Labor is made up of more than 300 affiliated unions in the city and Cook County from plumbers to teachers.
“To what degree do they chose to exert influence over the paper?” said Rick Edmonds, a media business analyst at the Poynter Institute. “They may be hands off and leave it in the hands of a professional publisher and editor and that’s not necessarily the case.”
Read more at the Columbia Journalism Review
The question has comes up often, especially when wealthy business owners are involved in newspaper ownership. For example, concerns about independent coverage have lingered since 2015 when billionaire casino mogul Sheldon Adelson bought the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
ST Acquisition didn’t disclose details of the Sun-Times deal, including the complete list of investors. Along with the Sun-Times, ST Acquisition Holdings will own the Chicago Reader, an online publication, and a production studio. Eisendrath has previously said the investor group had raised about $15 million.
A message for Chicago-based Wrapports wasn’t immediately returned.
Wrapports announced in mid-May that it had agreed to enter into discussions with Tronc after failing to attract interest from other media companies. The U.S. Department of Justice subsequently asked Wrapports to extend a bidding process for other potential buyers to come forward.