Wrapports LLC, which owns the Sun-Times Media Group, is on the cusp of buying alt-weekly the Chicago Reader, reported Crain’s Chicago Business yesterday. The article suggests that Wrapports will buy the paper for about $3m from its current owner Atalaya Capital Management L.P., which bought it out of bankruptcy three years ago, along with four other weekly papers.
Crain’s quotes Brad Bulkley, an investment banker working for Atalaya, who says that his priority in choosing a buyer for the Chicago Reader was finding someone who would preserve the paper and “most, if not all, employee positions."
The article notes that, through buying up the Reader, the Sun-Times newspaper group would be able to expand its currently thin coverage of the Chicago arts and culture scene and develop valuable relationships with arts and entertainment advertisers. “Music and entertainment is pretty sticky content online," notes Mark Roth, co-founder of the entertainment site Centerstage, which was purchased by the Sun-Times media group.
The article also suggests that the purchase might help the Sun Times woo younger readers away from RedEye, a Chicago tabloid owned by the Tribune Company. What’s more, Crain’s speculates that the sale could benefit the Reader, by helping it compete more strongly with Time Out Chicago. Finally, and most importantly, Wrapports could simply help the Reader to survive financially. This is something that, according to Andrew Beaujon at Poynter, has been a struggle for the Reader since Craig’s List gutted the paper’s classified section.
Beaujon writes if the Reader is purchased by Wrapports, which according to Crain’s owns seven suburban dailies and around 30 suburban weeklies, it would represent a “a seismic change for a newspaper that’s always operated in opposition to the city’s big dailies.” He notes that the Reader, which plays an important role in covering Chicago’s news media, and which also runs political and investigative articles, “would bristle at being characterized as an entertainment paper”.
In a blog post for the Chicago Tribune, Eric Zorn praises the quality of the Reader’s explanatory and investigative journalism. "If this deal goes through," he writes, "I hope the new owners recognize that these stories are as much a part of the Reader brand as its "arts, culture, restaurant and entertainment" coverage, and somehow preserve what's left of the paper's "alternative" style while incorporating it into the mainstream Wrapports family."