Jim Kirk: Firewall Will Exist Between Sun-Times, Owners

After two months of uncertainty about the future of the Chicago Sun-Times, an unlikely coalition of wealthy investors and union backers closed on the purchase of the newspaper on Wednesday. The purchase price? $1.

That coalition, led by former 43rd Ward Ald. Edwin Eisendrath, beat out an attempt by Tronc, the parent company of rival newspaper the Chicago Tribune, to acquire the Sun-Times—something the U.S. Department of Justice put the brakes on.

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Eisendrath’s brother, John Eisendrath, is also a part owner and a former journalist at the Chicago Reader, which was included in the sale.

Retired ABC-7 News anchor Linda Yu also joined the group of investors. A number of unions under the umbrella Chicago Federation of Labor also invested in the Sun-Times. Its president, Jorge Ramirez, will become chairman of the Sun-Times and Reader parent company.

Before a Thursday afternoon press conference announcing the deal, members of the coalition met with Chicago Sun-Times staff.

“After all of the uncertainty, it was very upbeat, and I think the ownership group ... said the right things to calm some concerns. These are very big labor unions that are coming together as part of this,” Sun-Times Publisher and Editor Jim Kirk said of the meeting.

“We cover labor unions very aggressively, and you could imagine some of the concern that some of the reporters had about what that would mean. And Jorge Ramirez, the head of the Chicago Federation of Labor, was very adamant in saying he believes in journalism independence and there would be no crossing of lines. I think the staff responded very well to that.”

Other investors include controversial businessman Elzie Higginbottom, a Democratic political donor and fundraiser; William Brandt, a corporate restructuring expert and founder of Development Specialists; Stuart Ellison, a veteran of the Chicago Board of Trade; Leonard Goodman, a lawyer representing former Gov. Rod Blagojevich in his appeal; and, Sidney “Skip” Herman, a lawyer and friend of Mayor Rahm Emanuel.  

Two other minor investors wish to remain anonymous, according to Eisendrath, who on Thursday afternoon made his first public comments about the newspaper he now owns.

With a group of owners that includes unions and occasional newsmakers, Kirk said he would serve as the firewall between ownership and editorial decisions.

“It stops with me. I don’t expect, given what I’ve heard of the past couple of days, that we will have any issues with that,” Kirk said. “If we do, it stops with me, and I’ve had assurances by everyone in that group that there will be no breach of that.”

Kirk joins us in discussion.

Related stories:

Labor Group Buys Chicago Sun-Times

July 12: A group of investors led by former Chicago Ald. Edwin Eisendrath has completed its purchase of the Chicago Sun-Times and the Chicago Reader.

A Growing Line to Buy the Chicago Sun-Times

June 5: The Chicago Sun-Times is for sale, and Tronc—the parent company of the Chicago Tribune—has already signaled an intent to buy the paper. But the Department of Justice is giving others an opportunity to get in on the action.

Chicago Sun-Times Editor: A Deal With Tronc ‘Made the Most Sense’

May 16: The Chicago Sun-Times is up for sale and its chief rival has agreed to buy it. We hear from the editors of both newspapers.

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