What's the number? What's the real number?
That's what the competition for the Chicago Sun-Times comes down to this week, and probably into next. On Monday, the Edwin Eisendrath group upped its ante to $15 million, drawing together would-be funding from a Chicago-only coalition of four labor unions, represented via the Chicago Federation of Labor, and something less than a dozen, so far unidentified, local businesspeople. ["Tronc's Michael Ferro Would Be Overpaying For Sun-Times at $15 Million or More"] That $15 million is a significant number in the competition between Eisendrath's group and Tronc, which has made known its own willingness to buy Chicago's second paper about a month ago. But it may not be the most significant number.
That number, according to three insiders with knowledge of the process, may be one known as "liquidation value." Blend. Grate. Pulse. Chop. The Sun-Times has been through the ringer as a struggling, but lively, second paper for so long now. Why now try "liquidate" as a discipline?
Here, the exercise is to figure out what would be left if the Sun-Times had to close up shop -- finding no buyers and its current owners unwilling to further subsidize operations. What would be left in the coffers? It's the Department of Justice's Antitrust Division that's been driving to that number, as one means to establish a value, or valuation, for the Sun-Times, which is now projected to lose something less than $4 million in each of 2017 and 2018. How could that number play into a sale?