NEW YORK – The secretive hedge fund Alden Global Capital launched a hostile take-over for Lee Enterprises, whose properties include the Winona Daily News. Alden offered $141 million. The Winona paper is but a blip in the Lee Media empire of 77 dailies and dozens of weeklies. Alden bought into Lee in January 2020, acquiring 5.9% of the financially pressed company.  To take over, Alden now is offering $24 a share to entice Lee shareholders to sell. Alden is not new to the news business. In 2010 it bought the bankrupt Media News Group, whose flagship was the Denver Post. This May it bought the financially flailing Chicago Tribune chain. This year Alden took aim at the giant Gannett chain but failed.

Alden profile

With a $20,000 cash prize from a television game show in 1970, Randall Smith established an investment company. By 2020 his Alden Capital had 200 newspapers and also a dreaded reputation. First it sells off real estate owned by its papers. It has 2.3 million square feet of real estate in 29 states, mostly up for sale. Then Alden guts the newspaper staffs to cut operating expenses. At the Colorado Spring newspaper, it laid of 102 people. At the Chicago Tribune company it switched employee pension funds to a company it controls. Only when sued did Alden admit wrongdoing and return the money. A Vanity Fair magazine profile called Alden the “grim reaper of American newspapers.” Alden’s business model has no record of a sense of journalism’s civic role.

Among bleak portrayals of Alden Capital

From The Nation magazine.

Alden founder Randall Smith.

From Vanity Fair magazine.

Alden managing partner Heath Freeman.

From HedgeClippers.org.

Verbatim

Ken Doctor, media analyst: “Alden Global Capital is making so much money wrecking local journalism, it might not want to stop any time soon.”