A private equity manager who wanted to buy the Sun-Times Media Group said on Tuesday that his attempt to bid on the bankrupt newspaper publisher was blocked, and that he wants the court to reopen the sale process.
Thane Ritchie said he made requests to meet with the Chicago Newspaper Guild to discuss a coalition offer to buy the publisher, whose largest paper is the daily Chicago Sun-Times.
He said that his group was told that it was against federal labor laws for a potential bidder to have a conversation with the guild.
Ritchie, who said he is interested in buying and preserving other newspapers around the United States, is asking the Chicago Newspaper Guild to ask the Delaware bankruptcy court to reopen the bidding process for 30 more days. He also wants an order that the guild not be blocked from working with Ritchie to ensure an alternative offer.
A guild official could not be reached for comment.
Sun-Times Media Group spokeswoman Tammy Chase disputed Ritchie's statement.
Various other parties expressed interest in the transaction, but ultimately declined to bid, Chase said. Assertions that any party was improperly deterred from making a bid in this process are patently false.
Chicago investor James Tyree, chief executive of financial services firm Mesirow Financial, led a bid to buy the Sun-Times Media Group, but last month threatened to walk away unless bargaining units at Sun-Times unions agreed to concessions.
Nine of 11 unions have agreed, while five more have rejected. Two have yet to vote, the Sun-Times reported on Tuesday.
Tyree's group remains the sole bidder so far, and his $25 million offer for the company will be submitted to the bankruptcy court on Thursday.
The Sun-Times filed for bankruptcy earlier this year, making it the second newspaper company in Chicago, along with Tribune Co, to be operating under Chapter 11 protection.
Both companies, along with other U.S. newspaper publishers, have been hurt by severe advertising revenue declines as more people abandon print newspapers for the Web and advertisers follow. The recession has accentuated those declines.
(Reporting by Robert MacMillan; Editing by Gary Hill)