Utah state senator, 4 others want to buy SL Tribune

Utah state senator, 4 others want to buy SL Tribune

(KUTV) A Utah state senator has confirmed to 2News he is part of a group seeking to buy the Salt Lake Tribune.

Sen. Jim Dabakis (D-Salt Lake City) said five people - including himself - are actively pursuing the purchase.

Dabakis would not say who the other four individuals are, but he described them as "progressive people" that have the financial ability to buy the paper.

"These are Utah-based people that are interested in getting return on their money but also understand just how important it is to have a Salt Lake Tribune that's viable," Dabakis said.

The senator would not disclose how much his group is willing to pay. He spoke with 2News just after returning from Washington, D.C., where he met with a representative from the U.S. Department of Justice. Dabakis said he emphasized the importance of having two daily newspapers in Salt Lake City.

The future of the Tribune has been in question recently. A renegotiated joint operating agreement (JOA) between the LDS-church owned Deseret News and the Tribune reduced the share of profits to the Tribune gives the church the power to veto any buyer for the paper.

A group of advocates for the Tribune has sued, alleging the agreement violates antitrust laws and effectively ensures the Tribune will be put out of business.

The JOA is under review by the Department of Justice. A DOJ spokesman declined to comment.

The Tribune is owned by a New York-based Hedge Fund, Alden Global Capital. Representatives there did not immediately respond to a message from 2News.

Utah billionaire Jon Huntsman Sr. made a push recently to buy the Tribune, but those negotiations stalled.

"I think local ownership would be a very good thing," said Terry Orme, Salt Lake Tribune editor, adding it also "brings some conflict of interest challenges that you would have to work through with any owner."

Orme said he is still waiting for something to work out that would lead to more solid footing for his paper.

"I have been hoping for that for two years, and I think I speak for everybody in the room when I say that," he said.

Dabakis emphasized there is no deal on the table yet, but he said talks have taken place, including with the owners of the Deseret News.

"There've been discussions with the appropriate people on that side of the equation," he said.

Asked whether his standing as a liberal state senator might invite criticism of the possible deal, Dabakis brushed it off.

"My vision of life is go out, grab gusto, do what you can do," he said. "If it doesn't work, it doesn't work, but I'm optimistic about this."

Follow Daniel Woodruff on Twitter @danielmwoodruff for breaking news, updates and more.

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