Jan 16, 2024 - Business

Baltimore Sun sold to Sinclair chairman David Smith

Photo: Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

The Baltimore Sun, Maryland's largest newspaper, has been sold by hedge fund Alden Global Capital to David Smith, the executive chairman of the local TV company Sinclair.

Why it matters: The deal puts the Sun back in the hands of a local owner after nearly four decades.

Catch up quick: The Sun has been owned by Alden Global Capital since 2021, when it was acquired as a part of Tribune Publishing, the parent company to the Chicago Tribune, New York Daily News and other local papers.

  • In 1986, local owner A.S. Abell Co. — the company belonging to the family of the Sun's original founders — sold the paper to Times Mirror Co. for $500 million.
  • Times Mirror Co. eventually became a part of Tribune Publishing in 2000.
  • The paper, which was founded in 1837, almost sold to a nonprofit backed by Maryland-based hotel billionaire Stewart Bainum Jr. in 2021. That deal fell apart, and eventually, Bainum went on to back a rival non-profit outlet called The Baltimore Banner.

Details: In a statement, Sinclair noted the acquisition was consummated with Smith's personal assets. "Sinclair, Inc. has no involvement with the transaction. Mr. Smith will continue to be our Executive Chairman and Chairman of the Board," it said.

  • In addition to the Sun, Smith also acquired the Capital Gazette papers in Annapolis, Carroll County Times, Towson Times and other Baltimore-area publications, the Sun reported.
  • In an interview, he told paper that "we have an absolute responsibility to serve the public interest."
  • He noted that he plans to expand the Sun's commercial business by developing new advertising and subscription strategies, including focusing the paper's editorial products more heavily on local community news and video.
  • For now, the Sun's backend functions will continue to be operated by Tribune, but Smith said he plans to eventually end those arrangements to operate the paper as a standalone business.

Between the lines: As The Baltimore Banner notes, Smith "has given generously over the years to conservative and local causes through his David D. Smith Family Foundation."

  • Smith also criticized the "mainstream media" in his interview with The Sun about the deal.
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