Blethen Family Announces Sale of Maine Newspaper Properties

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By: Jennifer Saba

The Blethen family announced Thursday that it has sold its Maine newspaper properties — including the Portland Press Herald — to a group of investors led by Richard Connor, eight months after the company put the properties on the block.

The group Maine Media Investment includes former Secretary of Defense and U.S. Sen. William S. Cohen as well as Robert Baldacci and Michael Liberty. Terms of the deal, first reported by Tux Turkel at the Press Herald, were not disclosed.

The parties are expecting to close the transaction at the end of the year, but it depends if the group can secure financing.

“Although the sale is still contingent on the buyer obtaining a portion of its financing, both parties are optimistic that the transaction will close, despite tight credit markets,” Charles Cochrane, president and chief executive officer of Blethen Maine Newspapers, told Turkel.

Connor is also the editor and publisher of The Times Leader in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., a former Knight Ridder paper that was sold by McClatchy after it acquired the nation’s second-largest newspaper chain.

Connor told Turkel he was not sure what changes would occur.

The purchase also includes the Kennebec Journal in Augusta and the Morning Sentinel in Waterville among other Maine properties.

“This is probably the most difficult time in the last 40 years to borrow or raise money,” Connor told the paper. “We’ve taken on a pretty big task.”

The Press Herald is a guild newspaper. The Portland Newspaper Guild represents roughly 350 employees at the Press Herald and Morning Sentinel. The group is set to go through arbitrations with the management on Jan. 13, 2009. The investment group would have to honor guild contracts, Turkel reported.

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