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A New York-based private-equity firm is in the running to buy the newspaper chain that owns The Salt Lake Tribune and 75 other major daily newspapers, Reuters reported Monday.
Citing anonymous sources Reuters said were familiar with the negotiations, the news service reported that Apollo Global Management was "in advanced talks" to purchase most of the assets of Digital First Media for around $400 million.
But a substantial portion of Digital First newspapers are being excluded from the proposed sale, Reuters said, though the news service said "it could not be learned" which papers might be part of what Apollo is being offered and which might be sold separately.
Attempts by The Tribune to contact Apollo officials were unsuccessful. Reached Monday, John Paton, CEO for Digital First, declined to comment.
Sources told Reuters that Apollo has thus far prevailed over another, smaller private equity firm, Cerberus Capital Management, in bidding for the chain.
The news service also reported that officials familiar with the matter said negotiations still could collapse, potentially yielding a different outcome.
The Tribune, Utah's largest daily, has been overseen by Digital First since September 2011, when it was created to manage newspapers brought together in a post-bankruptcy merger of The Tribune's prior owner, Denver-based MediaNews Group, and the Journal Register Co.
Utah industrialist and philanthropist Jon Huntsman Sr. has expressed interest in buying The Tribune. He could not be reached for comment Monday.
Digital First ranks as the nation's second-largest newspaper company, operating in 15 states with 76 daily and Sunday newspapers and about 160 weeklies. Besides The Tribune and the Park Record in Park City, its newspapers include The Denver Post, San Jose Mercury News, St. Paul Pioneer Press and the New Haven Register.
The chain's potential sale has been closely watched by the newspaper industry, which in recent years has seen declining advertising revenues in the face of competition from news delivered on desktop computers, smartphones and other digital devices.
Founded in 1990, Apollo is an international firm reporting approximately $164 billion under management as of September, including extensive real estate holdings. The firm is known to specialize in buying financially distressed assets, with the goal of making them profitable through cost-cutting and corporate reorganization.
For its part, Digital First is controlled by Alden Global Capital, another New York-headquartered fund focused on distressed assets.
Digital First announced last September it would "evaluate and consider strategic alternatives," including a possible sale and hired UBS AG as a financial adviser.