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Chicago Sun-Times owner Wrapports buys the Reader

Owners Chicago Sun-Times have acquired Chicago Reader.

Owners of the Chicago Sun-Times have acquired the Chicago Reader.

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Updated: July 3, 2012 8:42AM

The owners of the Chicago Sun-Times said Wednesday that they have acquired the Chicago Reader, bringing an enduring part of the alternative press under the same corporate umbrella as daily and weekly papers that span the Chicago region.

The acquisition of the 41-year-old free weekly will bring new content and advertising to Sun-Times parent Wrapports LLC, said the company’s chief executive, Timothy Knight. He would not discuss terms of the sale.

Knight said he and Jim Kirk, senior vice president and editor in chief of Sun-Times Media, will examine ways the publications can share content and whether to distribute the Reader as part of the Sun-Times. But he said the Reader will continue to be distributed separately.

The Reader “has a loyal readership base and therefore has a loyal advertising base,” Knight said. “It continues to produce excellent journalism and it has the best set of listings — events, restaurants, venues and other similar listings — of anyone in the city.”

Selling the Reader was Creative Loafing Inc. Like many companies in the media business, Creative Loafing went through bankruptcy. As a result, it was wholly owned by its largest creditor, Atalaya Capital Management LP.

Creative Loafing continues to own alternative weeklies and related websites in Atlanta and Washington, D.C.

Knight said the Reader’s publisher, Alison Draper, will step down as of the end of June and that Editor Mara Shalhoup will remain and report to Kirk.

No other changes in the staff of about 45 or in editorial focus are planned, Knight said.

He said it is possible the staff, which works out of 11 E. Illinois, will be moved into the Sun-Times’ offices at 350 N. Orleans.

Besides listings, the Reader also is known for coverage of culture and politics. Years ago, it was fat with ads and was the main source for hip North Siders needing to know where to rent an apartment, find a part-time job or check the club listings.

But its financial base has eroded over the years as its readership aged and technological shifts redirected advertising.

Knight said, however, that the Reader still has “a terrific foundation to build upon.” Asked about combining an alternative publication with the mainstream press, he said, “I view us as being a technology and media company and that we’re not traditional in any stretch.”

He added, “We’re creative and interesting and fun, and that’s what we’re trying to build here.”

Wrapports, led by technology entrepreneur Michael Ferro Jr., will invest in other companies that provide content that can be shared across platforms, Knight said. He cited the company’s recent purchase of High School Cube, which lets high schools post information and stream live events.

Sun-Times Media publishes six suburban dailies in the Chicago area, a three-times-a-week paper and 32 weekly titles under the banner of the Pioneer Press.

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