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SoftBank reported as among suitors for Chicago Tribune publisher

Japanese conglomerate seeks a media foothold through troubled Tronc

SoftBank is looking to acquire a stable of newspapers that also includes the Baltimore Sun.

NEW YORK -- SoftBank Group has set its acquisition sights on Tronc, the American publishing house that owns the Chicago Tribune and a number of other regional newspapers, according to U.S. news website Axios.

Besides the Japanese conglomerate, Tronc is reportedly drawing takeover interest from U.S. private equity fund Apollo Global Management and fellow American newspaper publisher Gannett.

The company, formerly Tribune Publishing, is a storied media player but has been struggling to cope with declining readerships and print ad revenue amid the rise of digital news. In February, Tronc agreed to sell the Los Angeles Times to repay debts and reinforce its online services.

The company has suffered from turbulent management in recent years. In 2007, Tribune agreed to go private in a buyout led by Chicago real estate tycoon Sam Zell, only to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection as it ran short of cash. In 2016, Gannett spent six months pursuing an acquisition before Tribune rejected the idea.

Tronc's Nasdaq-listed shares surged on Monday's report of SoftBank's interest, closing 11% higher.

Eri Sugiura in Tokyo contributed to this report

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