* Robert Feder…
No one’s supposed to know it, but the parent companies of the Chicago Tribune and the Sun-Times are on a collision course over unpaid bills.
At issue are the $70 million-a-year contracts for Tribune Co. to print and distribute the Sun-Times and its suburban daily newspapers. (The distribution deal began in 2007, and the printing deal began in 2011.) Just as Tribune Co. was emerging from bankruptcy at the end of December, Sun-Times owner Wrapports LLC paid only a fraction of what it owed, according to sources at both companies.
Since then, nothing. Some see it as a sign of financial trouble at Wrapports, where advertising revenues have fallen far short of projections. Others see it as a strategic move to force a renegotiation of the agreement or as a precursor to a bid for the Tribune.
Fearing that Tribune Co. could simply pull the plug, Wrapports has begun searching for alternate printing facilities. (Just a bluff? Who knows?) On the other hand, Wrapports chairman Michael Ferro appears to be gambling that the Tribune won’t put its No. 1 client out of business while it’s trying to attract a potential buyer. In the end, it all may wind up in court — if not on the front pages of both papers.