After Huntsman tries to buy SL Tribune, another buyer emerges
(KUTV) Citizens for Two Voices, a group that's taken legal action to save the Salt Lake Tribune from financial doom, said after Jon Huntsman Sr.'s efforts to buy the Trib stalled, another buyer is on deck.
"We don't know why the talks stalled," said Ted McDonough with Citizens for Two Voices. The group alleges Huntsman's representatives were working on the deal since this summer.
Karra Porter, an attorney representing the group in court, said the new bidder is a person or persons well-known in the community with strong ties to Utah. Porter said legal action to save the Tribune is on hold until the new potential buyer makes a pitch.
The problem, according to Porter and her clients, is that any potential buyer would have to be approved by owners of the Deseret News, the Tribune's competitor. Porter said she has no idea what criteria would satisfy The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints which owns the Deseret News.
A joint operating agreement between the Deseret News and the Tribune gives the LDS church the power to veto any buyer for the Trib. Citizens for Two Voices alleges that in 2013, the Salt Lake Tribune's new owner Alden Global Capital, a hedge fund from New York, was paid more than $15 million by the Deseret News to renegotiate the long-standing joint operating agreement between the two papers.
The new agreement they said, cut the Tribune's profits in half. The majority profits and the veto power went to The Deseret News. The agreement effectively ensured the Tribune would be put out of business in the future. The group fears independent voices will be shut-out in Utah, leaving only the voice of the dominant religious establishment.
"It's crazy and illegal," said Porter of the agreement. She hopes the new potential buyer can strike a deal with the LDS church -- a deal that will restore fairness and profits to the Tribune. If not, she feels confident the court will find that the agreement violates anti-trust laws.
Citizens for Two Voices said they can't wait forever for a buyer. Given the financial hardships at the Tribune, something needs to happen fast they said.
"Our fear is it could enter into a downward spiral and that could be fatal for a newspaper," said Joan O'Brien, founder of the group.
Terry Orme, Editor of the Salt Lake Tribune said he is not involved in talks with potential buyers.
"You are in the newsroom working and not knowing what the future is," said Orme who has lost many people on his staff. Many have left for more stable jobs outside of journalism.
Still, he said the Tribune staff is working hard to cover news events in Utah and be a watch dog over government officials.
"You have this cloud of instability not knowing who your next owner will be," he said of life in the newsroom.
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