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Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

SoftBank is among several possible buyers for newspaper publisher Tronc, Axios has learned from a source familiar with the situation. This comes just days after a NY Post report that private equity firm Apollo is also kicking Tronc's tires.

Why it matters: Financial buyers have mostly avoided newspapers in recent years, fearing they don't have the digital chops to offset declining print revenue.

The players

Apollo: Axios has confirmed Apollo's interest, but it's unclear how it will be affected by news late Friday that ex-Tronc chairman Michael Ferro will sell his entire 25.65% stake to privately-held McCormick Media. Ferro and Apollo co-founder Leon Black are said to be pals, and initial speculation was that Ferro was in some way facilitating Apollo's interest.

SoftBank: Fortress Investment Group, which SoftBank bought last year, is the external manager for the parent company of GateHouse Media, one of the country's largest newspaper chains.

Gannett: Tronc's peer also remains in the mix, and makes the most strategic sense (assuming you accept conventional wisdom that newspaper publishers need scale to survive).

News Corp: We're not hearing that there's serious interest here, but you should never count Rupert Murdoch out of an acquisition auction.

Patrick Soon-Shiong: The billionaire doctor already agreed to buy the L.A. Times and San Diego Tribune from Tronc for around $500 million. That deal still seems to be on track, although the Apollo leak may have been designed to ensure he doesn't force a downward renegotiation. The bigger question is why he paid so much for a piece when he could have had the rest for just another couple hundred million (including the Chicago Tribune). "No one can believe he didn't buy the whole thing," a source says.

Go deeper

3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Beto plans Texas comeback in governor's race

Former U.S. Rep. Beto O'Rourke speaks during the Georgetown to Austin March for Democracy rally on July 31, 2021, in Austin, Texas. Photo: Brandon Bell/Getty Images

Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke is preparing to run for governor of Texas in 2022, with an announcement expected later this year, Texas political operatives tell Axios.

Why it matters: O'Rourke's entry would give Democrats a high-profile candidate with a national fundraising network to challenge Republican Gov. Greg Abbott — and give O’Rourke, a former three-term congressman from El Paso and 2020 presidential candidate and voting rights activist, a path to a political comeback.

Texas doctor says he performed an abortion in violation of state law

Pro-choice protesters march down Congress Avenue and back to the Texas state capitol in Austin, Texas, in July 2021. Photo: Erich Schlegel/Getty Images

A Texas doctor disclosed in an op-ed in the Washington Post on Saturday that he has performed an abortion in violation of the state's restrictive new abortion law, which effectively bans the procedure after six weeks.

Why it matters: Alan Braid's op-ed is a direct disclosure that will very likely result in legal action, thereby setting it up as a potential test case for how the abortion ban will be litigated, notes the New York Times.

Mike Allen, author of AM
4 hours ago - Technology

Axios interview: Facebook to try for more transparency

Nick Clegg last year. Photo: Matthew Sobocinski/USA Today via Reuters

Nick Clegg, Facebook's vice president of global affairs, tells me the company will try to provide more data to outside researchers to scrutinize the health of activity on Facebook and Instagram, following The Wall Street Journal's brutal look at internal documents.

Driving the news: Clegg didn't say that in his public response to the series. So I called him to push for what Facebook will actually do differently given the new dangers raised by The Journal.