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Hedge fund known for cutting journalism jobs bids for company that owns Bismarck Tribune

Lee Enterprises owns nearly 100 newspapers around the country, including The Bismarck Tribune and dozens of others around the Midwest.

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BISMARCK — A New York hedge fund with a reputation for cutting staff in newsrooms announced a bid to acquire Lee Enterprises, the owner of more than two dozen newspapers around the Midwest, including The Bismarck Tribune in North Dakota.

Alden Global Capital said in a letter to Lee’s board of directors Monday, Nov. 22, that its offer of $24 a share represents a 30% premium over the company’s closing stock price on Friday.

Lee publishes nearly 100 daily newspapers all over the country, among them The Bismarck Tribune, the Rapid City Journal in South Dakota, the Billings Gazette in Montana, the Casper Star-Tribune in Wyoming and the Winona Daily News in Minnesota. The company’s largest properties include the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Arizona Daily Star and the Richmond (Va.) Times-Dispatch.

In recent years Alden has developed a reputation for buying up newspapers, cutting journalists and selling off real estate from its acquired properties.

The hedge fund purchased the Chicago-based Tribune Publishing earlier this year, bringing legacy papers like the Chicago Tribune, the Baltimore Sun and the Orlando Sentinel into its fold. Within six weeks of the purchase, Alden had cut or bought out 10% of staff across Tribune Publishing, according to a June report by the Poynter Institute , a news industry research organization.

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Lee Enterprises, based in Davenport, Iowa, confirmed the "unsolicited non-binding" offer from Alden on Monday.

"Lee’s Board of Directors and management team are committed to acting in the best interests of all shareholders," the company said in a statement advising its investors not to take any action until the board could "carefully review Alden's proposal to determine the course of action that it believes is in the best interests of the Company and Lee shareholders."

Bismarck Tribune publisher Gary Adkisson said the North Dakota paper employs a total staff of 55 to 60 people, with 16 or 17 news staffers, including editors, news reporters, sports reporters and photographers.

Alden currently holds a 6% stake in Lee, according to its Monday letter, and said its bid for ownership represents "a reaffirmation of our substantial commitment to the newspaper industry and our desire to support local newspapers over the long term."

Readers can reach Forum reporter Adam Willis, a Report for America corps member, at awillis@forumcomm.com.

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