He tried and failed to buy The Baltimore Sun. Now Maryland hotel magnate Stewart W. Bainum Jr. an ambitious publication intended to compete with it.
The planned digital news broadcast, The Baltimore Banner, will have an annual operating budget of $15 million, and Mr. Bainum is now seeking an editor-in-chief and a staff of 50 journalists, newspaper consultant Imtiaz Patel, an adviser to Mr. Bainum. Bainum, said on Thursday.
The aim of Mr. Bainum, added Mr. Patel, is to build the largest newsroom in Maryland – more than 100 journalists – and rely on subscription sales to achieve sustainability. The Baltimore Banner is run as a non-profit organization and does not offer print editions. The Atlantic Ocean reported first Mr. Bainum’s plans for Thursday.
The creation of The Baltimore Banner is a side effect of the biggest newspaper deal of the past year, when the hedge fund bought Alden Global Capital Tribune Publishing, the company behind The Chicago Tribune, The Baltimore Sun and other major metropolitan dailies, in a deal. worth $630 million.
Months before Tribune shareholders approved that sale, Alden Global Capital announced it had reached a non-binding deal to sell The Sun to Mr. Bainum for $65 million once the larger acquisition was completed. Mr. Bainum’s plan was to turn the 184-year-old newspaper into a non-profit organization that would operate the newspaper as a public trust.
However, that arrangement fell through, forcing Mr. Bainum to attempt to put together new bids for Tribune Publishing as a whole. Those efforts did not materialize, but Mr. Bainum did not lose his interest in becoming a publisher.
“He has this vision to build the real alternative document of the record and to invest the resources he would have put into The Sun,” said Mr. Patel, the advisor, Thursday.
Born in Takoma Park, Maryland, Mr. Bainum is the chairman of Choice Hotels International, a one-time family business that is one of the largest hotel chains in the world, including the Comfort Inn and Quality Inn brands. A lifelong Democrat, he served in the Maryland state legislature from 1979 to 1987.
While collecting bids for Tribune Publishing earlier this year, he hoped to find local community benefactors who would take ownership of the company’s individual newspapers, a group of large-circulation daily newspapers including The Hartford Courant, The Orlando Sentinel and The Daily News.
Journalists from several Tribune newspapers publicly supported Mr. Bainum’s attempts to buy the company, and many of them were publicly critical of Alden Global Capital, which has a reputation for strict cost-cutting among the dozens of newspapers it owns through a subsidiary, MediaNews group.