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Sun-Times May Have A Buyer: Mesirow Financial CEO James Tyree

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CHICAGO (AP) -- A Chicago investment banker said Monday he is assembling a group to bid on the bankrupt Sun-Times Media Group.

James Tyree, chairman of Mesirow Financial Holdings, said he is reviewing the Chicago-based media company's books but his financial company would not be part of any bid group.

Tyree said his goal would be to keep the Chicago Sun-Times, the company's largest newspaper, as well as its 58 suburban Chicago papers and Web sites.

"My premise is that the papers have great content. It's content that people want and they find valuable," Tyree told the Chicago Sun-Times. His review of the media company's books was first reported by Crain's Chicago Business.

Sun-Times Media Group filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization at the end of March after struggling with falling advertising revenue. The media company listed $479 million in assets and $801 million in debt in its bankruptcy filing.

The Internal Revenue service also says the company owes as much as $608 million in back taxes and penalties related to the business practices of former owner Conrad Black, when the company was called Hollinger International. Black was convicted of fraud for siphoning millions of dollars from the company and is serving a prison sentence.

But bankruptcy means the liabilities will not be part of the sale, which Tyree said creates a "real opportunity."

Tyree said he discussed a potential bid last week with Jeremy Halbreich, who took over as CEO of Sun-Times Media Group in February, but cautioned it is early in the process and a bid group has not yet been put together.

Potential co-investors include a private-equity firm, Tyree told Crain's. He would like to form a group of four to 25 "to keep this great institution in Chicago."

Tyree anticipates competition from other bidders and that the company will be sold within 60 days.

A Sun-Times spokeswoman told the newspaper she would not discuss bidders and the company "is very early in the sale process." A Sun-Times Media Group spokeswoman did not immediately return a telephone message left Monday after business hours by The Associated Press.

The Tribune Co., the Sun-Times' biggest rival in Chicago, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in December. Besides the Chicago Tribune, the company owns the Los Angeles Times, The Sun of Baltimore and other dailies, as well as 23 TV stations.

-ASSOCIATED PRESS

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A Message from Crain's Chicago Business

Investment bank chairman plans bid for Chicago Sun-Times :: CHICAGO SUN-TIMES :: Business