On Monday, Tronc Inc. (NASDAQ: TRNC), formerly The Tribune Company, announced its purchase of Daily News, L.P., the owner of the New York Daily News and its news site NYDailyNews.com. With this purchase, Tronc adds another major media market to its list of well-known newsrooms that include the Chicago Tribune, the Los Angeles Times, The Baltimore Sun, Orlando Sentinel, Hartford Courant and the San Diego Union-Tribune.
As part of the deal, Tronc now also owns 100 percent of the New York Daily News‘ printing facility in New Jersey and 49.9 percent interest in a joint venture that will own the 25-acre parcel on which the facility sits and that overlooks the skyline of Manhattan. The sales price was not disclosed.
According to Tronc’s announcement, the New York Daily News has about 25 million unique monthly visitors to its website, growing Tronc’s reach to more than 80 million unique monthly visitors. Interestingly, The Tribune Company actually founded the New York Daily News in 1919, and it is now returning to the fold.
‘We are excited to welcome the New York Daily News team to the Tronc family, and we look forward to working with them to serve new audiences and marketers while delivering value for our shareholders,’ said Justin Dearborn, Tronc CEO. ‘As part of the Tronc portfolio, the New York Daily News will provide us with another strategic platform for growing our digital business, expanding our reach and broadening our services for advertisers and marketers.’
New York Daily News editor-in-chief Arthur Browne will be the publisher until his previously-announced retirement at the end of this year. He will report to Timothy Knight, president of Tronc.
‘Under the ownership of Mortimer Zuckerman, the New York Daily News was awarded five Pulitzer Prizes recognizing their commitment to quality journalism that serves the citizens of New York City and the surrounding area. We look forward to continuing this great tradition and appreciate his faithful stewardship as its owner,’ said Knight.
Eric Gertler, former co-chairman and former co-publisher of the New York Daily News, wrote a touching tribute and thank you to New York Daily News staff and readers:
‘It is bittersweet that I announce the sale of the New York Daily News to Tronc, Inc.,’ Gertler wrote. ‘My long association with this newspaper and, more recently, my role in overseeing the Daily News has been one of the great privileges of my life.’
‘The media world is undergoing a revolutionary transformation, from the local print distribution of the 20th century to the global online distribution of the 21st century. Still, perhaps more than ever, the public needs a multiplicity of voices that have earned the trust of their audiences. Invaluably, the Daily News is blessed with such trust and will continue to honor it with reporting aimed at protecting the best interests of its millions of local and global readers,’ Gertler said.
‘Mort (Zuckerman) and I will now root for Tronc, the newspaper, the website and all its hardworking and talented employees – but from the sidelines of the streets of New York City – and, like all New Yorkers, we will awake each morning eagerly anticipating the cover of the News and surf the paper’s web pages for its special perspective on the news of the day,’ he added.
Tronc was most recently in the news for its August 21 announcement that digital media pioneer Ross Levinsohn would be the new CEO and publisher of the Los Angeles Times, effective immediately. Levinsohn had previously served as interim CEO and head of global media at Yahoo! And as president of Fox Interactive Media. Jim Kirk, senior vice president of strategic initiatives for Tronc, will serve as interim executive editor for the L.A. Times, during the search for an editor-in-chief.
In July, Tronc was beaten out by an investment group in the acquisition of the Chicago Sun-Times, a rival paper of the Tronc-owned Chicago Tribune. Tronc had bid on Wrapports Holdings, parent company of the Sun-Times in May, but the Department of Justice said that, before it would approve the acquisition, the Sun-Times had to run a full-page ad in May, seeking another buyer. Well, they found one – an investment group led by former Chicago alderman Edwin Eisendrath, corporate restructuring expert William Brandt, the Chicago Federal of Labor, other local labor unions and about a half-dozen others.
‘A great group has come together and made sure that a genuine voice with honest and good reporting that connects with working men and women thrives,’ said Eisendrath. ‘The Sun-Times has been an important part of Chicago for our whole lives. We are inspired by the writing and reporting, and a group of civic-minded leaders wanted to save that.’
So far, the stock market has not yet reacted significantly. On Friday, September 1, Tronc Inc. stock was valued at $14.66 per share. At 1:32 PM Eastern yesterday, Tronc stock was valued at $14.62.
In an ever-evolving media landscape, individually- and family-owned newspapers are becoming rarer, as companies like Tronc and Gannett attempt to scale up to gain market share. Since fighting off Gannett’s attempts to buy Tribune Publishing last year, Tronc has undergone rebranding and, seemingly, an identity crisis with a new name and a new vision for its digital future. [Editor’s note: Tronc stands for Tribune Online Content.]
We still aren’t fans of the Tronc name, particularly when Tribune Publishing was an iconic brand, but Tronc is growing, trying to remain (or become?) relevant in a digital age. We expect to see more deals like this from large publishers with cash in their pockets and a desire to grow.