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2017-09-04 21:21:03
The New York Daily News Is Said to Be Nearing Sale

The Daily News, the nearly 100-year-old tabloid owned by the real estate magnate Mortimer B. Zuckerman, is close to announcing an agreement for its sale to Tronc, the publisher of The Los Angeles Times and The Chicago Tribune.

The deal is expected to be announced on Tuesday, according to people briefed on the negotiations.

The deal would be the end of an era for The News, which was long a voice for New York’s working class and for decades set the city’s agenda with its gossip, sports and city coverage.

The News once boasted A-list columnists including Liz Smith, Jimmy Breslin and Pete Hamill, but it has been worn down by a grinding tabloid war with the Rupert Murdoch-controlled New York Post. And like the rest of the newspaper industry, The News has been battered and bruised by the internet age, when the equivalent of pithy headlines — a staple of The News — come a mile a minute on Twitter.

Sweeping layoffs have reduced its staff. The paper’s circulation, which exceeded two million a day in the 1940s, is now in the low hundred thousands.

But while The News wields less influence than it once did, it still has the power to resonate in the city and beyond. This year, the paper and ProPublica shared the Pulitzer Prize for public service for a series on the New York Police Department’s widespread abuse of eviction rules. And its pointed headlines, particularly about President Trump — a longtime real estate rival of Mr. Zuckerman — still attract attention, particularly on social media.

The sale of The News may also signal the end of the political influence of Mr. Zuckerman, who often used the paper’s bold, front-page headline — known as “the wood” — for commentary about candidates and politicians, locally and nationally.

At Tronc, formerly Tribune Publishing, the deal is something of a triumph for its chairman, Michael W. Ferro Jr., who took control of the company in early 2016. Owning The News would give Tronc newspapers in the country’s three biggest media markets — New York, Los Angeles and Chicago — along with markets including Baltimore and Hartford, which the company hopes will endear it to national advertisers. In some ways, the deal is a homecoming. The News was long owned by The Tribune Company, which spun off Tribune Publishing in 2014.

Under the terms of the deal, Tronc would assume control of The News’s operations, its printing plant in Jersey City and its pension liability, the people briefed on the negotiations said. No cash would change hands. Tronc would also receive a 49.9 percent interest in the 25-acre property overlooking Manhattan where the printing plant is, the people said. It was not immediately clear what The News’s pension liabilities were; however, previous reports indicated that they were worth more than $30 million.

Tronc also expects to save money by using the plant in Jersey City to print The Hartford Courant and The Morning Call of Allentown, Pa. The company would then ship those papers to those cities, the people said. Such an arrangement could be worth millions of dollars annually.

Mr. Zuckerman, who bought the paper in 1993 for $36 million in cash, put The News up for sale in 2015 and drew interest from several wealthy businessmen, including the supermarket magnate John A. Catsimatidis. But later that year, Mr. Zuckerman took the paper off the market, raising fresh questions about its future.

Under Mr. Ferro, Tronc has pursued an aggressive strategy of deal-making. Last year, Gannett sought to buy Tronc, but Mr. Ferro resisted; Gannett raised its offer several times but ultimately walked away, though investors continue to speculate about a potential deal. Mr. Ferro also tried to buy US Weekly, but the deal fell through, and he most recently was engaged in conversations to have Tronc buy The Chicago Sun-Times, a newspaper Mr. Ferro once owned personally through his investment company.

Just last month, Tronc announced plans to overhaul The Los Angeles Times, its flagship. The company hired Ross Levinsohn, a longtime media executive who held a senior position at Fox’s digital group, as its chief executive and publisher while ousting top editors, pointing to a lack of digital innovation, though newsroom employees say the shake-up also capped months of concern over the paper’s leadership.