An octogenarian Swiss billionaire who makes his residence in Wyoming and has donated tons of of thousands and thousands to environmental causes is a shock new participant within the bidding for Tribune Publishing, the key newspaper chain that till just lately appeared destined to finish up within the arms of a New York hedge fund.
Hansjörg Wyss (pronounced Hans-yorg Vees), the previous chief govt of the medical gadget producer Synthes, mentioned in an interview on Friday that he had agreed to affix with the Maryland hotelier Stewart W. Bainum Jr. in a bid for Tribune Publishing, a proposal that might upend Alden International Capital’s plan to take full possession of the corporate.
Mr. Wyss, who has given away some of his fortune to assist protect wildlife habitats in Wyoming, Montana and Maine, mentioned he was motivated to affix the Tribune bid by his perception within the want for a sturdy press. “I’ve a chance to do 500 occasions greater than what I’m doing now,” he mentioned.
Alden, which already owns roughly 32 % of Tribune Publishing shares, is understood for drastically chopping prices on the newspapers it controls via its MediaNews Group subsidiary. Final month, the hedge fund reached an agreement with Tribune, whose papers embody The Each day Information, The Baltimore Solar and The Chicago Tribune, to purchase the remainder of the corporate’s shares at $17.25 apiece.
Below that plan, Mr. Bainum, a lifelong Marylander, agreed to ascertain a nonprofit group that might purchase The Solar and two different Tribune-owned Maryland newspapers from Alden for $65 million. Quickly after that settlement was reached, nevertheless, negotiations between Mr. Bainum and Alden stalled. That prompted Mr. Bainum, the chairman of Choice Hotels International, one of many world’s largest resort chains, to make a bid on March 16 for all of Tribune, beating Alden’s quantity with a proposal of $18.50 a share.
That bid valued the corporate at about $650 million. The Alden settlement valued Tribune at roughly $630 million.
Tribune was not swayed by Mr. Bainum’s provide. A securities filing on Tuesday revealed that the corporate’s board really helpful that shareholders approve the Alden bid. On the identical time, the Tribune board gave Mr. Bainum the go-ahead to pursue financing for his increased bid.
He has accomplished simply that by teaming with Mr. Wyss, who mentioned within the interview that he deliberate to personal the corporate’s flagship paper whereas he and Mr. Bainum search benefactors for Tribune’s seven different metro dailies, which embody The Orlando Sentinel and The Hartford Courant.
“He made that bid as a result of he desires The Baltimore Solar,” Mr. Wyss mentioned, referring to Mr. Bainum. “I mentioned, ‘Yeah, that’s tremendous. And I’ve to make The Tribune even higher than what it’s now.’”
The settlement struck by Mr. Wyss and Mr. Bainum is nonbinding, Mr. Wyss mentioned. He added that it got here collectively in latest days and is detailed in a letter he despatched to Mr. Bainum on Friday. An individual with information of the discussions between Mr. Wyss and Mr. Bainum confirmed that every man deliberate to place up $100 million towards the $650 million bid, and Mr. Wyss mentioned he can be keen to produce further funds for debt financing.
Mr. Bainum declined to remark. A spokesman for 3 members of Tribune’s board not affiliated with Alden declined to remark. A spokesman for Alden didn’t instantly reply to a request for remark.
A decade in the past, Mr. Wyss led the sale of Synthes to Johnson & Johnson for roughly $20 billion. Mr. Wyss and his household — a daughter, Amy, additionally lives in Wyoming — had the biggest stake in Synthes, proudly owning practically half the shares.
The sale of Tribune, which the newspaper firm hopes to conclude by July, requires regulatory approval and sure votes from firm shareholders representing two-thirds of the non-Alden inventory. The medical entrepreneur Patrick Quickly-Shiong, who owns The Los Angeles Occasions along with his spouse, Michele B. Chan, has sufficient Tribune shares to squash the Alden deal by himself. Dr. Quickly-Shiong declined to touch upon Saturday.
Mr. Wyss mentioned he can be a civic-minded custodian of The Chicago Tribune. “I don’t need to see one other newspaper that has an opportunity to extend the quantity of fact being instructed to the American individuals happening the drain,” he mentioned.
Alden’s potential acquisition of Tribune has been fiercely opposed by many journalists at Tribune papers. Alden has aggressively reduce prices at many MediaNews Group publications, together with The Denver Submit and The San Jose Mercury Information. Critics say the hedge fund sacrifices journalistic high quality for better earnings, whereas Alden argues that it saves papers that might in any other case be part of the hundreds which have gone out of enterprise within the final twenty years.
Mr. Wyss, 85, mentioned he was partly impressed to affix Mr. Bainum by a New York Occasions opinion essay final yr by which two Chicago Tribune reporters, David Jackson and Gary Marx, warned that an Alden buy would result in “a ghost model of The Chicago Tribune — a newspaper that may now not perform its important watchdog mission.” Since that article appeared, each reporters have left the paper.
Mr. Wyss, born in Bern, first visited america as an alternate scholar in 1958, working for the Colorado Freeway Division. He was a journalist as a younger man, he mentioned, masking snowboarding for Neue Zürcher Zeitung, a Zurich paper, and submitting dispatches on American sports activities to Der Bund, a Bern paper, when he was learning at Harvard Enterprise College.
He mentioned he believed The Chicago Tribune would prosper underneath his possession.
“Perhaps I’m naïve,” Mr. Wyss mentioned, “however the mixture of giving sufficient cash to knowledgeable workers to do the appropriate issues and placing fairly a bit of cash into digital will finally make it a really worthwhile newspaper.”