By: Mark Fitzgerald
Private equity investor Brian Ferguson doesn’t comment publicly on possible acquisitions by his Anthem Newspaper Holdings — but he wants everyone to know that he’s not buying The Honolulu Star-Bulletin.
“We would not be interested in buying the Star-Bulletin as it’s been offered for sale — and would be surprised if anyone out there thinks that buying the Star-Bulletin as a standalone property is anything but a suicide mission,” Ferguson said in an interview Wednesday afternoon.
Ferguson also batted down reports in Honolulu media that he wants to buy MidWeek, the big weekly that David Black’s Oahu Publication has not offered for sale. Black put the Star-Bulletin up for sale to satisfy the Antitrust Division as he buys the much bigger Honolulu Advertiser from Gannett Co. The deadline for preliminary bids was Monday.
Ferguson said he is discussing the sale publicly because of persistent media reports identifying him as a “third bidder” for the paper. He doesn’t want people to think he is involved in “saving” the Star-Bulletin as it exists now.
“From my experience, I can tell you that this process takes a strong and intense toll on the emotions of everyone, whether in the newsroom or the production are or wherever,” he said. “And the idea that anything close to the status quo is going to remain inn a market like this is very far-fetched. It’s important to get rid of this idea that a white knight is going to come riding in on a horse.”
Anthem did make a proposal to Oahu Publications, but Ferguson declined to describe beyond saying it did not involve buying the Star-Bulletin as offered or MidWeek.
Two parties have publicly identified themselves as bidders.
Republican state Sen. Sam Slom and Malia Zimmerman, who co-founded the online news site Hawaii Reporter told the Star-Bulletin, in a story by Allison Schaefers, that they would change the paper into a smaller publication with an investigative focus.
Frederick “Derick” Harris also confirmed a bid, the Star-Bulletin reported, describing him as ?a Big Island-based entrepreneur.?
This corrects an earlier version that wrongly identified Schaefers as an Advertiser writer and attributed Star-Bulletin reporting to the Advertiser.