Is the Sun-Times protecting Bruce Rauner on the infant drug story?

By DOUG IBENDAHL • October 24, 2014


We’ve uncovered some additional links between Bruce Rauner and the Chicago Sun-Times.


On Tuesday we broke the story about a pharmaceutical company which harvested big profits thanks to the company’s astronomical increase in the price it charged for a crucial drug needed to treat babies born premature with a life-threatening heart illness.


We published follow-ups to the story on Wednesday and Thursday. Crain’s Chicago Business also picked up on our story on Wednesday.


Not a peep thus far from the Chicago Sun-Times on a story which could potentially have a huge impact on Rauner’s viability in this campaign.


Now we can also report this story has a connection to the other huge story this week, the resignation of respected reporter Dave McKinney from the Sun-Times.


The pharmaceutical company at issue is Ovation Pharmaceuticals, Inc. which was founded in 2000 by Jeffrey Aronin.


Ovation was acquired by Bruce Rauner’s private equity firm GTCR in 2002. Rauner was chairman of GTCR at the time. In keeping with GTCR’s usual business model, the equity firm partnered with company founder Aronin, and he stayed on to serve as Ovation’s President and Chief Executive Officer.


Among other positions, Aronin currently serves as Special Advisor to Merrick Ventures, LLC, a company founded by the Sun-Times’ majority owner Michael Ferro. Ferro serves as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Merrick Ventures, LLC.


In 2013, just months before making his gubernatorial run official, Rauner sold his 10% stake in the Sun-Times’ parent company to Ferro. Rauner reportedly sold his interest for $5 million, and that transaction enabled Ferro to increase his control of the Sun-Times company to a two-thirds stake.


Aronin, Rauner and Ferro also all served together on the board of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s World Business Chicago.


As the Dave McKinney story has exposed, the intertwining of private equity big shots with media owner big shots raises serious concerns about the objectivity of reporting when one of those big shots is also running to be THE big shot of state government.


The disclosures this week about the treatment of Mr. McKinney has shaken the credibility of Illinois media companies to their foundations, even if few in the industry are so far willing to acknowledge that reality.


A serious conflict has been revealed between the big shots’ desire to help a friend and fellow big shot vs. the public’s right to be informed.


In light of what we’ve learned through Dave McKinney’s experience, voters now also have a legitimate right to ask if they are also being under-fed on other stories, such as Bruce Rauner’s direct connection to a drug company which squeezed parents by price gouging on a crucial life-saving medicine. Price gouging by the way which put more money directly into Rauner’s already stuffed pockets.


We invite the Chicago Sun-Times to respond to the questions raised in this article because right now your silence is deafening.


Doug Ibendahl is a Chicago Attorney and a former General Counsel of the Illinois Republican Party.


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