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By: Lucia Moses

Board Rejected Efforts To Buy TV, Radio Properties

Ralph J. Martin said he and the board of directors of Community Newspaper Holdings Inc. (CNHI) reached a ?mutual agreement? that he quit as president and CEO.

In two years, Martin built the Birmingham, Ala.-based chain from scratch to 95 small dailies and some 100 weeklies, the company with the most U.S. dailies. He resigned Nov 12.

Martin said he wanted to explore buying radio and TV stations in markets where CNHI has papers, while the board wanted to stick to the group’s original plan of buying small papers and creating geographic clusters.

?There’s just some things I want to try and I have to do it while I’m young enough to try,? said Martin, 46. ?I really think convergence is going to occur. I want at least to explore that opportunity, and that’s not necessarily in the best interests of CNHI.?

Martin said he’s been seeking funding for ideas ranging from building another newspaper company to buying all the media in a single market.

At his recommendation, Martin added, the board appointed Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Mike Reed to succeed him.

Martin has acknowledged that CNHI’s financial backer, Retirement Systems of Alabama (RSA), also was cool to his idea to diversify CNHI’s holdings. RSA controls a majority of CNHI’s shares and is represented on the board by three of seven members.

David Bronner, who heads RSA, said Martin’s departure was voluntary. But he said Martin’s idea to buy broadcast stations would conflict with RSA’s current portfolio, which already includes TV and radio. ?Why would we want to fund two companies that compete with each other?? he asked. ?We’re trying to be a newspaper company.?

Bronner has reined in CNHI in the past. At his insistence, CNHI had shifted away from small, costly deals in favor of multiple-newspaper transactions.


Lucia Moses ( is an associate editor for Editor & Publisher magazine.

(c) Copyright 1999, Editor & Publisher

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