Tribune Sale to Alden Approved by Shareholders

“The purchase of Tribune reaffirms our commitment to the newspaper industry and our focus on getting publications to a place where they can operate sustainably over the long term,” Heath Freeman, the president of Alden, said in a statement Friday after the shareholder meeting. Tribune didn’t immediately reply to requests for comment.

The vote on Friday had required approval by two-thirds of the shares held by investors other than Alden, which holds a 32 percent stake in Tribune, to pass.

The company’s second-largest shareholder, Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong, who owns a 24 percent stake in Tribune, abstained from voting, his spokeswoman said on Friday.

“For the past several years, Tribune Publishing has been a passive investment, as he has remained focused on the leadership roles he holds across his companies,” Dr. Soon-Shiong’s spokeswoman said in an emailed statement.

Dr. Soon-Shiong was seen as the last hope by Tribune employees who opposed the sale to Alden, because a “no” vote from him would have blocked the deal.

“He should have taken a stand as a civic leader in journalism,” Gregory Pratt, the Chicago Tribune Guild president, said of Dr. Soon-Shiong. “He had a responsibility, in my opinion, to vote ‘no,’ but at the bare minimum he had a responsibility to take a firm stance one way or the other instead of punt.”

Even the vote on Friday came with an unexpected turn when one of the unions representing Tribune employees noted that the company’s shareholder filings say an abstention would count as a vote against the sale.

But a person with knowledge of the specifics of Dr. Soon-Shiong’s vote said he did not check the “abstain” box on the ballot, and Tribune counted the vote as a “yes.” The person asked not to be identified discussing private information.

Alden began buying up news outlets more than a decade ago and owns MediaNews Group, the second-largest newspaper group in the country, with titles including The Denver Post and The Boston Herald. While buying a newspaper may sound like a questionable investment in an era of shrinking print circulation and advertising, Alden has found a way to eke out a profit by laying off workers, cutting costs and selling off real estate.

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