Chicago Public Media to acquire Sun-Times under merger plan with WBEZ

Chicago Sun-Times/WBEZ Chicago

The Chicago Sun-Times would become a subsidiary of Chicago Public Media, nonprofit parent company of WBEZ 91.5-FM, under a “historic partnership” being pursued by the two legacy media organizations.

Confirming a report here, the board of Chicago Public Media voted Wednesday to approve a non-binding letter of intent to “explore joining together as one organization to grow and strengthen local journalism in Chicago.” Target for completion of the merger is the end of this year.

(Here is a link to the joint announcement.)

Terms of the proposed agreement, billed as “a new model of local nonprofit journalism,” were not disclosed. It’s not clear how long the two newsrooms would continue to operate independently or what the impact will be on staffing. Editorial employees at both companies are unionized.

While the move would fortify WBEZ, the driving force is securing the survival of the Sun-Times, which continues to lose money for its owners. Michael Sacks, the Chicago businessman who’s been principal investor in the Sun-Times since 2019, has been looking for a partner to take over the company.

“The primary goal of every Sun-Times investor has been to strengthen and secure the future of the paper. The right transaction with Chicago Public Media can do that by creating a strong and sustainable Sun-Times for the journalists and for Chicago,” said Jorge Ramirez, Sun-Times board chair.

“The Chicago Public Media Board of Directors is overwhelmingly supportive and deeply enthusiastic about this partnership,” said Piyush Chaudhari, who succeeded Bryan Traubert as board chair earlier this month.

“It is truly a once-in-a-generation opportunity to create an essential new asset for Chicago – bringing together two of the city’s most respected news organizations to establish a new model of local nonprofit journalism that is entirely focused on serving the public good here in Chicago and our region.”

At the same board meeting Wednesday, Chicago Public Media officially named Matt Moog chief executive officer after one year as interim CEO. The tech entrepreneur accepted the interim role after a botched search for a successor to Goli Sheikholeslami, who resigned in 2019.

Nykia Wright continues as CEO of the Sun-Times.