Saying it is “alarmed and concerned,” The NewsGuild has launched a proxy campaign to Tribune Publishing shareholders that raises questions about the shrinking assets of Alden Global Capital, the hedge fund owner of rival newspaper chain MNG Enterprises.
The Guild, which represents news workers at more than a dozen Alden-owned papers, filed the letter with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on May 4, asking Tribune shareholders to block two Alden-allied members from taking permanent seats on Tribune’s board.
MNG (also known as MediaNews Group or Digital First Media) is considered the nation’s third-largest newspaper chain and is poised to take over or merge with Tribune, which owns the Chicago Tribune, The New York Daily News, The Baltimore Sun and other newspapers.
Alden acquired nearly a third of Tribune shares in November but is prohibited from buying any more shares until after June 30.
Tribune’s board surprised many observers when it added — without a fight — two temporary board seats with hand-picked Alden directors after the hedge fund became the company’s largest shareholder last fall.
Now, at Tribune’s May 21 virtual annual meeting, shareholders are expected to vote on whether the two Alden representatives should remain permanently on the board, which will also shrink from its current eight to six members, increasing the percentage of Alden’s influence.
“Alden’s two hand-picked board members, Christopher Minnetian and Dana Goldsmith Needleman, lack satisfactory public board experience and have problematic track records,” the NewsGuild’s letter states. “Further, the relationship of Mr. Minnetian and Ms. Needleman to Alden raises questions about their independence and whether they will put the interests of Alden ahead of other shareholders, not to mention readers.”
Also in the rumor mill is the possibility that Alden buys enough stock to outright control the company when its “stand-still” agreement expires at the end of June, or whether the two chains will merge.
“We urge shareholders to VOTE NO on the election of Board members Needleman and Minnetian,” the letter states.