Sale of Chicago Sun-Times Completed

James Tyree: Paper is well-suited for future

Chicago businessman James Tyree's purchase of Sun-Times Media Group Inc., including the Chicago Sun-Times and more than 50 suburban publications, has been finalized.

The company announced the completion of the acquisition in a news release Monday, saying it will "begin a new era as a locally owned and managed media conglomerate."

Together, Tyree and his partners become only the fourth owners in the Sun-Times' 60-plus year history.

A bankruptcy judge approved the sale to the investor team on Oct. 8. The transaction value was about $26.5 million.

But this is not your grandfather's newspaper. Earlier this year, before the latest cost cuts were implemented, the Sun-Times was losing over a million dollars per week.

Still, Tyree insists that he believes the paper can, and will, survive.

"The whole thing is really driven by a business model of business opportunity. I wouldn't be here if I didn't believe that this organization can maintain a strong business model and be profitable," Tyree said.

Some wondered earlier this year if that would be possible.

Sun-Times Media Group filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in March, citing $479 million in assets and $801 million in debt. It has shed more than 400 jobs since late last year through layoffs and attrition.

Tyree said he believes that because those cuts were made, and because of new deals with the unions, the Chicago tabloid is actually better suited to face the future than many other papers across the country. 

"My viewpoint is, I believe through a lot of hard work from hundreds of people along this transaction, that this business is in a great position to be able to really create its own success," he said.

But it's definitely an uphill battle.

Paid circulation for the Sun-Times and the Chicago Tribune fell in line with national trends during the six-month period ending in September compared to the same span a year earlier, according to figures released Monday by the Schaumburg-based Audit Bureau of Circulations.

Editorially, CEO Jeremy Halbreich insists the paper won't change, unless it seems even more local, which is what he perceives as the paper's strength. And as ad markets retreat, he said he plans to explore new revenues, including e-commerce ideas which go far beyond traditional newpaper advertising.

"So if there's then an opportunity to buy high school sports gear, or buy tickets to a concert or a movie, they will feel comfortable doing that through us," Halbreich said.

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