Billionaire Leon Black is weighing yet another opportunity to invest in the newspaper business.
Print empire McClatchy has approached Black’s buyout firm Apollo Management to shore up its bid for Tribune Publishing, the owner of the New York Daily News and the Chicago Tribune, The Post has learned.
That’s because McClatchy — the owner of such papers as the Miami Herald, Sacramento Bee and the Charlotte Observer — has grown concerned that its current bidding partner, LA billionaire Patrick Soon-Shiong, won’t come through in the deal, insiders said.
As reported by The Post, Black’s buyout firm had been interested in buying Tribune earlier this year. That was before the publishing giant — which changed its name from Tronc earlier this week — sold its trophy property, the Los Angeles Times, to Soon-Shiong in June for $500 million.
Now, however, McClatchy is approaching Black’s Apollo for debt financing, rather than asking it to become a co-owner, according to sources. It’s not yet clear whether Black — known to be friendly with former Tronc Chairman Michael Ferro — will do a deal, and if so on what terms, sources said.
Tribune was valued at $571.3 million as of Thursday. The expectation is that a sale could fetch $640 million to $700 million.
Soon-Shiong, who currently owns a 25 percent stake in Tribune, has been looking to buy the rest of the company to gain operational efficiencies because the LA Times still shares some supporting operations with Tribune’s other papers.
But Soon-Shiong, reported to be the richest man in Los Angeles, worth $7 billion, now appears to be wavering on a commitment to pony up $150 million in equity — a move that would eliminate the need for outside financing, according to sources.
“He only moves when he feels like he is going to lose the deal,” one source noted.
Soon-Shiong still appears willing to roll over his shares for a deal, sources added.
He was originally partnered with Will Wyatt, the former Starboard Value manager who recently formed the Donerail Group to try to buy Tribune.
Those talks fell apart in recent weeks, and Soon-Shiong turned to McClatchy as a potential partner instead. Wyatt, meanwhile, has become a rival bidder, sources said.
McClatchy is nearly $800 million in debt.
To speed up the deal, one of its principal lenders, Chatham Asset Management, is willing to convert its $300 million in debt into equity in a new, combined company.
Soon-Shiong, meanwhile, has shown up at several recent auctions without completing a deal, including a proposed bid for the DC United soccer team.
Apollo and Tribune declined to comment. Soon-Shiong couldn’t be reached for comment.
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