Chicago Tribune Takeover Sought by Relative of Former Publisher

(Bloomberg) -- An investor group led by a distant relative of the former Chicago Tribune publisher is raising money in a bid to potentially buy the 171-year-old newspaper from Tronc Inc.

Sargent M. McCormick says he and other investors have formed a new venture fund and are trying to raise money from civic groups and large businesses in Chicago and across Illinois, including Boeing Co. and Caterpillar Inc. The idea is to either acquire the Tribune itself or become the largest shareholder in Tronc, a publishing company that also owns the New York Daily News, the Baltimore Sun and Orlando Sentinel.

McCormick attempted an earlier Tronc deal that failed. He and two other investors, John Lynch and Clancy Woods, had agreed in April to buy a 25 percent stake in Tronc from the company’s former chairman, Michael Ferro, and Ferro’s firm, Merrick Media, for $208.6 million. The sale fell apart earlier this month after the buyer breached its obligations, Merrick Media said.

McCormick said he’s still committed to buying Ferro’s stake, but he’s also interested in an outright purchase of the Chicago Tribune.

“Our interest is focused on Chicago and having a really strong independent newspaper,” McCormick said in an interview.

A Tronc spokeswoman declined to comment.

Times Sale

On Monday, Tronc was expected to close the sale of its Southern California holdings, including the Los Angeles Times, to billionaire Patrick Soon-Shiong. That deal offloads Tronc’s biggest newspaper and has raised speculation that it may sell off other pieces of the company. Tronc has been talking to potential buyers for its other nine properties, according to newspaper analyst Ken Doctor.

Sargent McCormick runs business development at the Harvester Trust, which manages the fortune of a family whose patriarch, Cyrus McCormick, invented the reaper in the early 1800s. The new fund will also focus on agriculture and real estate investments, as well as media, he said.

Sargent McCormick is also a distant relative of Robert McCormick, who was publisher of the Chicago Tribune about a century ago.

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