Florida Looms Over a Possible McClatchy-Tribune Deal

Bloomberg by Nablia Admed

December 3, 2018

Florida’s pivotal role in U.S. presidential elections could become a potential obstacle in a deal to expand a newspaper empire.

As Tribune Publishing Co., owner of Florida’s Sun Sentinel, considers offers for the business, one of the potential combinations under discussion has sparked concerns that it could create a concentration of regional newspapers under McClatchy Co., according to people familiar with the negotiations. As well as competition issues, one of the concerns is that the deal could draw added political scrutiny because McClatchy chairman Kevin McClatchy has been a donor to Democrats, the people said.

Tribune Publishing is working with legal advisers to try to preempt and assuage potential antitrust concerns, the people said, asking not to be identified because the discussions are private. Tribune wants its shareholders protected in the event of a lengthy review by President Donald Trump’s Department of Justice, the people said.

While political considerations generally fall outside the scope of antitrust law, a Justice Department review could impede or delay a deal.

McClatchy is one of three bidders vying for a suite of publications including the Chicago Tribune, New York Daily News and Sun Sentinel and is offering some stock as part of its bid. McClatchy’s portfolio of 30 newspapers already includes the Miami Herald, so a deal would give it the largest newspapers in the state’s two biggest counties — Miami-Dade and Broward — as well as fast-growing areas such as Orlando.

McClatchy’s bid, which is fully financed, is higher than those of rivals Donerail Group and Texas-based newspaper company AIM Media, according to people with knowledge of the matter. There is no guarantee of any deal and negotiations could fall apart, the people said.

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