The news that Tronc may buy Us Weekly, Wenner Media’s gossip magazine, was met with a big shrug on Wall Street Tuesday. Despite reports that the two companies are nearing a deal in the $85 million to $90 million range, Tronc’s stock price remained flat, closing at $13.60 a share.
A Wenner Media spokeswoman declined to comment about a sale, and a representative from Tronc did not respond to a request for comment.
Wenner Media, whose titles include Rolling Stone and Men’s Journal, has been trying to sell off Us Weekly to pay off debt.
In addition to the industrywide issues that all print publishers are dealing with, Wenner Media has been facing the financial fallout from Rolling Stone’s 2014 “Rape on Campus” story, which ended up costing the company millions of dollars in lawsuits.
In September, Rolling Stone publisher and cofounder Jann Wenner sold a 49 percent stake in his flagship music and culture title to BandLab Technologies, a Singapore-based social media and retail company.
Earlier this year, Wenner Media came close to inking a deal with American Media Inc., David Pecker’s stable of tabloid titles that includes the National Enquirer, Radar Online and Star. But the sale fell through at the last minute, sources tell WWD.
Tronc, as the Tribune Publishing Co. rebranded itself last summer, is the country’s third-largest newspaper chain and its portfolio of papers include the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune and the Baltimore Sun.
The newspaper chain was widely mocked in media circles when it revealed it had changed its name to the all-lower case “tronc,” which stands for “tribune online content.” (The lower-case “t,” thankfully, never caught on with other media outlets, where house styles make it look like a typo).
“Our rebranding to Tronc represents the manner in which we will pool our technology and content resources to execute on our strategy,” chairman Michael Ferro said at the time.
And now, it seems that executing on that strategy may include adding a celebrity gossip magazine to its content resources.