Leon Black may be looking to buy Tronc

Leon Black may be looking to buy Tronc

Leon Black wants to be a newspaper magnate.

The New York billionaire’s buyout shop Apollo Global Management is eyeing an acquisition of publishing empire Tronc — swooping in as negotiations to sell the company’s Los Angeles Times and San Diego Union-Tribune papers have stalled, The Post has learned.

Apollo has kindled talks with the management team at Tronc — whose other holdings include the New York Daily News and Chicago Tribune — along with a few other prospective acquirers that include at least one media company, sources said.

That’s despite the fact that Tronc, formerly Tribune Publishing, has been scrambling to finalize a deal to sell the LA Times and the Union-Tribune to Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong, according to the sources.

The Los Angeles health care tycoon on Feb. 7 signed a $500 million deal to buy the Southern California dailies, and on March 5 got regulatory clearance.

On March 7, Tronc’s chief financial officer, Terry Jimenez, told analysts on an earnings call that the deal’s closing was “imminent” and would happen before the target date of early in the second quarter.

Nevertheless, Soon-Shiong has been silent since, and Tronc’s share price has fallen from $21.55 the day the deal was signed to close Thursday at $15.59 — a 28 percent drop.

Speculation is growing that Soon-Shiong is looking for a price cut, although neither side can break the deal without mutual consent until Aug. 7.

Tronc’s enterprise value, or equity plus debt, is now only $732 million, with the $500 million purchase representing 68 percent of that value.

More chaos slammed Tronc on March 19 when Michael Ferro announced he was retiring as chairman of the newspaper publisher — hours before a report surfaced that claimed two women had accused him of inappropriate behavior.

The women, executives who had business dealings with Ferro in 2013 and 2016 — before he worked at Tronc — claim they were victims of unwanted advances, according to Fortune.

Tronc CEO Justin Dearborn then took the additional role of chairman.

Tronc also owns the Baltimore Sun, Orlando Sentinel, South Florida’s Sun-Sentinel, Newport News, Virginia’s Daily Press, Allentown, Pennsylvania’s The Morning Call, and the Hartford Courant.

Gannett had looked at buying Tronc in 2016 for $18.75 a share, but its bankers got nervous as Tronc earnings deteriorated.

Apollo had interest around that time in buying Tronc as well, sources said.

Tronc last September bought the New York Daily News, which reported losing $13 million in the first half of 2017.

The door is open for sales of all or part of the company, a media observer said.

“I doubt Gannett wants the whole thing, particularly if they have to take the New York Daily News. They don’t want to have the stigma of closing it.

“Some of the papers probably can’t be sold. The Daily News is at the top of that list,” the observer said.

Tronc and Apollo declined comment. Soon-Shiong did not return calls.

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