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Sun-Times Parent Company Buys Reader

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CHICAGO (CBS) — The parent company of the Chicago Sun-Times has purchased the Chicago Reader, reportedly for slightly under $3 million.

The Sun-Times and the Reader both reported Tuesday morning that the sale of the Reader to Wrapports LLC had gone ahead.

The Sun-Times’ David Roeder says Wrapports chief executive officer Timothy Knight and Sun-Times Media senior vice president and editor Jim Kirk will now examine ways the Reader and the Sun-Times can share information, and whether the Reader will now be distributed as part of the Sun-Times.

The Reader will continue to be distributed separately, the Sun-Times reported. Wrapports will also keep the Reader free, according to the Reader, via Twitter.

The Reader and Sun-Times both reported that the Reader will likely move out of its longtime headquarters at 11 E. Illinois St., which it used to own but now leases, and move into the Sun-Times Headquarters in the 350 West Mart Center at 350 N. Orleans St.

Reader media critic Michael Miner – formerly a Sun-Times reporter himself – expressed shock and doubt about buzz that the Sun-Times parent company might buy the reader when reports first surfaced in March. He was quick to point out at hte time that the Sun-Times was in bankruptcy itself not long ago.

“Maybe we should buy them first,” he quipped in a March column. “There’s talk here of passing the hat, and if we reach three figures making an offer they can’t refuse. “

But in a new online column on Wednesday, Miner said the sale made sense from a business persecptive.

“(A)s time passed and no more attractive suitors emerged, the Reader staff began to accept the inevitable,” Miner wrote. “For all its alternative airs, the Reader culture is deeply old school, and it helped matters that a month ago technology entrepreneur Michael Ferro, chairman of Wrapports, hired Kirk, one of Chicago’s best-credentialed old-school journalists, to be editor in chief of Sun-Times Media.”

Furthermore, Miner wrote, Dallas investment banker Brad Bulkley, the man who brokered the sale, pointed out that most of the other prospective buyers wanted to shut the Reader down.

The Reader was independently-owned until 2007, when it was sold to ampa, Fla.-based alternative newspaper chain Creative Loafing. Soon afterward, its long-standing format as a multi-section broadsheet was scrapped in favor of the single-section tabloid format that was used until last year. Sometime before that, the paper was cut from four to three sections when the music and the arts and culture sections were combined.

Creative Loafing filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2008, in large part from debt incurred when it spent $40 million to buy the Reader, the Washington City Paper, and “The Straight Dope” column. Atalaya bought the other Creative Loafing papers in addition to the Reader the following year.

Atayala sold the other two Creative Loafing papers it purchased – weeklies in Tampa and Charlotte, N.C. – to Nashville, Tenn.-based SouthComm Inc., last October, Crain’s reported.

The Reader was founded in 1971 by a group of friends from Carleton College – editor and publisher Robert Roth, art director Robert McCamant, advertising director Thomas Yoder, and operations director and treasurer Thomas Rehwaldt.

Rehwaldt was fired in 1988 after a falling out with the other partners and ended up suing the company twice – most recently over the plans to sell off the paper in 2007.

A year ago, the Reader underwent a major redesign, replacing its all-newsprint tabloid format with a glossy-covered, staple-bound booklet that suggests a magazine. Among the new offerings inside were a “mega” Arts and Culture section, a “Local Wares” feature on independent artisans and craftspeople, and a new “Mudville” sports column on both pro-sports fandom and recreation leagues.

But the paper still features its roster of renowned columnists, including media critic Miner, arts critic Deanna Isaacs, restaurant critic Mike Sula, and political writers Ben Joravsky and Mick Dumke – who returned last year after a stint at the now-dormant Chicago News Cooperative. Cecil Adams’ “The Straight Dope” and Dan Savage’s “Savage Love” sex advice column have also remained all along.

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