‘Pioneer Press’ Offers Frank Self-Appraisal for Possible New Owners

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By: E&P Staff

Was it just helpful information or buyer beware or a plea for a new bid? Whatever it was, John Welbes provided a useful and frank “Things to know before buying this newspaper” article in the St. Paul Pioneer Press on Sunday.

It even dealt with the infrastructure, with Welbes revealing: “As for the paper’s eight-story building at 345 Cedar St., it isn’t crumbling, but it has some issues. The system used to cool the building, which came with the place in 1954, needs upgrading, and the roof should be replaced.

“One bright side: Two floors have virtually new carpeting.”

Denver-based MediaNews Group Inc. is said to be the frontrunner for the paper right now.

Other questions, and then some answers, provided to other “prospective buyers” by Welbes:

–Can they run the place with an operating profit margin of 10 to 12 percent? Many papers the size of the Pioneer Press return a higher or much higherprofit,

–Can they find a match online? CareerBuilder, the national, online job listing service owned in part by Knight Ridder, isn’t part of the package.

–Do they stick with the Pioneer Press’ local strategy for growth? It may not be “sustainable.”

–Did they know the place is unionized?

–Can they fund the pension?

–Have they kicked the tires? “When Dean Singleton, CEO of MediaNews Group, toured the Pioneer Press a couple of months ago, he stopped in at the printing plant near Holman Field. He eyed the Goss Metroliner II press and called it the ‘best damn newspaper press ever built,’ said Mike Garyantes, the production plant’s maintenance manager.”

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