McClatchy eyeing new deal with Tribune ‘as early as this week’: source

The McClatchy Co. is back stalking the much larger Tribune Publishing with a new all-cash bid that could hit “as early as this week,” The Post has learned.

This bid — supported by banking adviser Evercore — comes two months after its last bid at $16.50 a share, including $15-per-share in cash and $1.50 in stock, was rejected. The new offer is expected to be in the $15-per-share range, according to the source.

McClatchy, the newspaper chain that includes the Miami Herald and the Sacramento Bee, declined to comment, and Evercore and Tribune — home to the Chicago Tribune, the Daily News and the Hartford Courant, among others — did not return calls seeking comment.

A source said Tribune and McClatchy held talks late last week as consolidation fever sweeps the industry.

For McClatchy, the move is a case of déjà vu all over again as it pursues the debt-free Tribune.

Chatham Asset Management, the largest shareholder of McClatchy common stock at just under 20 percent, is also a stakeholder in American Media, owner of the National Enquirer, which is in the crosshairs of Amazon billionaire founder Jeff Bezos for its exposé on his extramarital affair. Bezos accused the tabloid of blackmailing him by threatening to release risqué selfies it claimed Bezos and his girlfriend exchanged.

When McClatchy’s last bid was rejected on Dec. 14, Tribune was trading at about $13.50 share. Since then the stock has cratered and closed Friday at $10.48 a share, near its 52-week low of $10.26.

A chief antagonist who soured on the last bid was Tribune’s former chairman Michael Ferro, the company’s largest shareholder, with about 26 percent of the stock. He was said to be holding out for at least $18 a share at that time, but now, said a source close to Ferro, “he’s ready to sell.”

A McClatchy bid this week could force the hand of USA Today owner Gannett, which in 2016 withdrew its hostile takeover bid of Tribune.

More recently, the Gannett board has been fighting a hostile $1.4 billion takeover bid by MNG Enterprises, more commonly known as Digital First Media, which is backed by hedge fund Alden Global Capital.

The news last week that Alden-controlled Payless Shoes plans to liquidate its 2,100 stores will probably bolster an argument by Gannett that Alden does not have the financing to pull off the acquisition of the nation’s largest newspaper chain.

Tribune also has been a target of former Starboard hedgie Will Wyatt, whose Donerail Group plans to buy and sell it off in pieces. But Wyatt has yet to put all the financing together. He could not be reached for comment.

Tribune’s board hired Lazard and more recently added Methuselah Advisors, which once advised Gannett, to try to reignite interest in a Gannett/Tribune merger.

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