Onetime Chester County Billionaire joins bid for Tribune Media

Tom Paine


Hansjörg Wyss, the Swiss native who founded Synthes and sold it to Johnson & Johnson for $20 billion, has joined in the bidding for Tribune Publishing.

The newspaper chain, which counts among its holdings the Allentown Morning Call, the Baltimore Sun, and the New York Daily News, currently has a bid from Alden Global Capital, the Dollar General of newspaper publishers, for $630 million.

Wyss would join Maryland hotelier Stewart W. Bainum Jr, who had bid first on the Sun and other Tribune Maryland assets and thought he had reached an agreement with Alden. That deal fell through and Bainum responded with a bid to buy all of Tribune for $650 million.

Wyss agreed to team up with Bainum and support his bid, with both men contributing $100 million and the remainder coming from debt some of which Wyss would finance. But Wyss’s main goal seems to be assuring the Sun purchase, and perhaps disposing of the remainder of Tribune.

Alden, which once briefly owned a large minority interest in the Inquirer and controls several suburban Philly titles, is feared in the newspaper business for its reputation of gutting papers it acquires. But when there is no competing bidder, what choice is there?

Synthes, based in SolothurnSwitzerland and West Chester,PA, provides. medical devices such as artificial implants used in surgery. In June 2012 Synthes was sold by its chairman, former CEO and largest shareholder Wyss to Johnson & Johnson for $20.2 billion.

Wyss, 85, was a resident of Chester County but is now reported to be a Wyoming ressident.

Another investor, Florida-based Mason Slaine, has also joined the pack, the Wall Street Journal reported, saying he was also willing to invest $100 million. He already has an 3.4% stake in Tribune. His own primary objective is to save Tribune’s Florida papers, the Orlando Sentinel and the Sun Sentinel in Fort Lauderdale, from Alden.

The Morning Call, one of my favorite mid-market papers, caught the eye of Warren Buffet, who was interested in purchasing it a few years back.