The New York Daily News is one of the biggest newspapers in the country. It’s an influential voice in the biggest city in the country. Earlier this year, it won a Pulitzer.
And it is officially worth ... nothing.
That’s according to the deal that Tronc, which already owns the Los Angles Times and the Chicago Tribune, has struck with News owner Mort Zuckerman, who will take zero dollars in payment when he hands off his paper tomorrow.
The only thing Zuckerman is getting out of this is freedom from the money-losing paper’s liabilities, which may run in the $30 million range. (Update: Make that at least $61.2 million, per Tronc’s SEC filing. Tronc says it can fund those obligations out of the paper’s cash flow.)
Per the New York Times, which broke the story:
“Under the terms of the deal, Tronc would assume control of The News’s operations, its printing plant in Jersey City and its pension liability, the people briefed on the negotiations said. No cash would change hands. Tronc would also receive a 49.9 percent interest in the 25-acre property overlooking Manhattan where the printing plant is, the people said.”
When I read that I did a double-take, and then a triple-take: Was Zuckerman really giving away his newspaper, and giving away a printing plant that’s quite valuable to Tronc (which can use it to print other East Coast papers it owns) and giving away New York real estate? Just to get out from his liabilities?
Yes, he is, a person familiar with the deal terms told me.
This won’t be the first time a storied publication has been sold for nothing, or next to nothing, in exchange for someone picking up the debt. TV Guide went for $1 in 2008. A year later, Bloomberg bought Businessweek for a little bit more — something in the single-digit millions.
And, perhaps there’s a nuance in the deal that we’ll see spelled out tomorrow, when Tronc (Tronc!) formally announces the deal. (Update: They announced it. Nope, the terms are what we thought they were.)
Still, it’s a grim reminder of how bad the newspaper business is for all but the very biggest operations, like the New York Times and the Washington Post, which are operating as national publications with a local tilt.
The Daily News tried positioning itself this way, too. Its media kit points out that it had 7.6 million online visitors from the New York area every month — so, just about everyone? — but 45 million visitors total.
But that isn’t truly convincing — the News, for better and for worse, is very much a local paper. And one that couldn’t make money. So here we are.
This article originally appeared on Recode.net.