By: Mark Fitzgerald
Exc?lsior — the self-styled “Newspaper of National Life” that was once Mexico City’s most prestigious paper but became a symbol of press toadying to the former one-party government — is being sold to the Mexican radio station chain Grupo Imagen.
In a story published Tuesday, Exc?lsior said that by a majority vote members of the employee cooperative that own the paper had agreed to sell it for 586 million pesos, or about $55.5 million.
Separately, The Associated Press quoted Grupo Imagen Director General Ernesto Rivera as saying about $28.4 million will be used as severance pay for nearly 1,500 workers, and indemnity for cooperative members. Mexican law requires the payments, and some of the workers are likely to continue under the new owners.
The Mexican news agency Notimex said Grupo Imagen will take over Monday — and intend to make many changes at the faded paper. At a time when Mexico City’s newspaper business has undergone a revolution in design, marketing, and editorial integrity, Exc?lsior has remained a dull and dull-looking oversized inky broadsheet.
Rivera told Notimex the new owners intend to turn it into a “competitive paper with a lot of color” that is marketed much more effectively. The paper will be redesigned to “take a leading place within the national press,” Rivera added.
AP reported Grupo Imagen is a subsidiary of Grupo Empresarial Angeles, which is owned by Mexican businessman Olegario Vazquez Rana. Olegario’s brother, Mario Vazquez Rana, owns the El Sol de Mexico chain of newspapers, and briefly owned United Press International in the 1980s.
In the tumult of the 1960s, Exc?lsior was known for aggressive reporting and opinion pieces that were unusual in a nation that for 71 years, until President Vicente Fox’s election in 2000, was ruled by the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI). In the mid-1970s, though, then-Mexican President Luis Echeverr?a orchestrated a management coup inside the paper that ousted Editor Julio Scherer and 200 other employees.
Exc?lsior scrupulously followed the PRI party line in the subsequent years. Unlike the many other Mexico City dailies that re-invented themselves after Fox’s election, Exc?lsior, which turns 89 years old in March, made only minor concessions to the new era of newspapers.
The paper had labor problems with its cooperative, and several rumored sales — including one involving Carlos Slim, Mexico’s richest man — never materialized.
Circulation figures for many Mexican newspapers are unreliable, and Exc?lsior’s sales are generally thought to be far lower than competing quality broadsheets such as Reforma and El Universal.