McClatchy/MediaNews Nearing Agreement on 4 Papers?

By: E&P Staff

Reuters reported late Sunday that McClatchy Co. is in “advanced talks” with MediaNews Group Inc. over four of the Knight Ridder orphaned newspapers it hopes to sell, according to sources close to the sale process.

MediaNews has long been rumored to aiming for three California papers–the San Jose Mercury News, the Contra Costa Times and The Monterey County Herald–and now is also in “late-stage talks” to buy Minnesota’s St. Paul Pioneer Press, one of the sources said.

“Denver-based MediaNews could also end up bidding for two Philadelphia-area newspapers on the auction block, the sources said, though that sale process is still in its earlier stages,” Reuters relates. McClatchy is selling 12 of the Knight Ridder papers in all, sometimes referred to as “the deserted dozen.”

The California papers, combined with the St. Paul Pioneer Press, could be worth $500 million to $1 billion, one source estimated. “But talks between the two parties are at a sensitive stage, the sources said, and could fall apart at any time,” according to Reuters.

“Questions still remain over whether MediaNews will partner with financial backers or another company to help pay for any acquisitions, one source said.” Gannett is still mentioned as a possible partner.

In addition, “McClatchy is now starting up a closely-watched auction of the well-known but struggling Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News. Sources said it distributed financial information to some bidders on Friday.” Several have been mentioned for weeks and the cast has not yet changed dramatically.

On Monday, Knight Ridder reported sharply declining earnings for the first quarter, with the two Philly papers leading the decline.

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