While the privatization of the Chicago-based Tribune Company will bring an end to the Robert R. McCormick Tribune Foundation's tenure as a major shareholder of the company, longstanding ties between the media concern and the philanthropy are expected to survive, the Chicago Tribune reports.
The second-largest foundation in Chicago was not a direct party to the negotiations in which billionaire Sam Zell gained control of the company, but it will review the deal's details before deciding whether to tender its Tribune shares — approximately 11.7 percent of the company's outstanding stock, as of January. At the price offered by Zell, the foundation's stake would be worth roughly $952 million, or about 75 percent of the market value of the foundation's invested assets. "We'll continue to manage our investment holdings in the best interests of the foundation, as set out by its benefactor, Col. Robert R. McCormick," said foundation spokesman Joseph Hays.
In 2005, the foundation awarded $110.5 million in grants to organizations working in the areas of journalism advocacy, freedom of the press, education, citizenship, and community services, while over the past decade it has awarded about $1 billion in grants — nearly a third of which went to organizations in the Chicago area. While the foundation considers itself independent of the Tribune Co., its board is composed of current or former Tribune executives, and its offices and the McCormick Tribune Freedom Museum are located in the Tribune Tower.
Dennis FitzSimons, who heads Tribune Co. and serves as board chair of the foundation, said he believes the close relationship between the company and the foundation will survive the buyout and that the foundation's board will continue to be controlled by Tribune executives, as directed in McCormick's will. FitzSimmons' assessment may soon be tested, however, because "at this point, the foundation will likely be selling into the tender."