New Suitors for Knight Ridder Emerge, As Insiders Also Press Bids

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By: E&P Staff

New names are emerging as possible buyers of Knight Ridder Inc., which is meeting with potential buyers this week, according to a report in the Los Angeles Times today. They include private equity firms not previously mentioned — and insiders at the current company.

At least three previously undisclosed private equity firms have joined groups interested in acquiring the publisher. In addition, the times reveals, “both the union representing thousands of Knight Ridder employees and a group of top executives at the chain are trying to find financial partners for their own bids, participants in the auction said Tuesday.

“Two of the new entrants, Bain Capital and Hellman & Friedman, have teamed up with Thomas H. Lee Partners and Texas Pacific Group in one coalition, two people involved in the process said. In addition, people involved in the auction said, Vestar Capital Partners has joined forces with Madison Dearborn Partners, which already had been identified as a bidder. Those coalitions are vying with at least one other previously reported combination: investment firms Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co., Blackstone Group and Providence Equity Partners.”

The Times notes that this interest in Knight Ridder is a good sign for shareholders and newspapers in general, and adds that still in the running are newspaper companies MediaNews Group and McClatchy Co. One source said Gannett had made, and withdrawn a bid, but another source said Gannett could re-enter the fray at any time.

The Newspaper Guild-Communications Workers of America, which had tried to bid for eight of Knight Ridder’s papers, is now trying to ally with McClatchy and other interested parties, union officials told the Times. They see McClatchy as being most sympathetic to mid-size papers and quality journalism.

Meanwhile, two financial professionals involved in the possible sale told the Times “a number of Knight Ridder executives, not including Chief Executive Tony Ridder, were teaming up and seeking a backer.” One said this slate was led by the two likely successors to Ridder at the current company, Hilary Schneider and Art Brisbane.

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