A local investment group is buying up Sun-Times Media for over $20 million in a move that may bring more digital focus to the media company.
The Chicago Sun-Times, one of the papers owned by Sun-Times Media, announced the deal, which was previewed in The Chicago Tribune, yesterday. The new investors include Michael Ferro Jr., Chairman of Merrick Ventures LLC, who will serve as company chairman, and the former publisher of Newsday, Timothy Knight, who will be CEO.
The group that is selling Sun-Times Media brought it out of bankruptcy in 2009, cutting costs by laying off staff, closing its own print plant and outsourcing the printing to Tribune Co. The group was originally led by former Mesirow CEO Jim Tyree, who died earlier this year. Until yesterday it was run by Jeremy Halbreich, who is stepping down to make way for Knight.
Under new ownership, the media group will keep the printed paper as a key part of its business model, but the buyout may be the start of a more digital-focused direction.
In The Chicago Sun-Times, Knight is referenced saying that the media group's new ownership mixes traditional media with a commitment to technology. "This isn't a newspaper acquisition. This is the creation of a technologically-enabled content company," he states.
The Chicago Sun-Times says that Knight "will concentrate on using technology to connect readers to the local content". The paper also calls Ferro "a well-known apostle of the power of technology", noting that he founded and sold a successful business software company.
In an article in Time Out Chicago, Knight is quoted showing a firm commitment to digital media: "We look forward to introducing cutting-edge technologies, new content portals and other tools that will expand and drive richer and more satisfying content to readers."
The Chicago Tribune notes that the Sun-Times has suffered from advertisers migrating towards the internet. This sale perhaps seeks to correct this problem, as the Sun-Times says that Knight promises to use new platforms to "craft ways to deliver an audience to advertisers".
It will be interesting to see how Sun-Times's digital strategy plays out. A few weeks ago, the media group put up metered paywalls across its 40 websites.