(AP) Federal trade regulators have ended early the antitrust waiting period for Lee Enterprises Inc.’s planned $1.46 billion buyout of fellow newspaper publisher Pulitzer Inc., Pulitzer said Wednesday in a regulatory filing.
St. Louis-based Pulitzer — which publishes the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and the Arizona Daily Star, among other papers — said in the Securities and Exchange Commission filing that it now would file a proxy statement with the agency for approval by the company’s shareholders.
The deal, announced Jan. 31, already has been unanimously endorsed by the boards of both companies.
Pulitzer said the Federal Trade Commission on Tuesday told both companies of the early termination of the waiting period under the Hart-Scott-Rodino Antitrust Improvements Act.
At least two Pulitzer shareholders have sued to block the buyout, claiming that Lee’s offer to pay $64 per share in cash for Pulitzer does not maximize shareholder value. The lawsuits, which name Pulitzer and its board, seek unspecified damages.
Pulitzer’s holdings also include a dozen other U.S. dailies, more than 100 weekly newspapers, shoppers, and niche publications, including the Suburban Journals of Greater St. Louis.
Davenport, Iowa-based Lee said the acquisition will make the company fourth in numbers of U.S. daily newspapers and seventh in circulation. It will operate 58 dailies in 23 states with combined circulation of 1.7 million daily and 2 million on Sundays.
Both companies said they expect to complete the deal, which also includes Lee assuming $306 million of Pulitzer debt, this spring.
Pulitzer chose Lee over Gannett Co., the nation’s biggest newspaper publisher whose 101 U.S. newspapers include USA Today.
Lee and Pulitzer have said the deal would mesh two newspaper publishers with similar cultures and values, beginning with their long histories. Lee is 114 years old and Pulitzer dates to 1878, when Joseph Pulitzer merged the St. Louis Dispatch and the Post. Lee has 44 daily newspapers in 19 states.
Lee has termed the acquisition a logical extension of its long-term growth plan, following Lee’s $694 million buyout of family-owned Howard Publications in 2002. With Pulitzer, Lee’s revenues should rise by 60% and circulation by 50%, Lee has said.
Pulitzer shares rose 2 cents to $63.61 in trading Wednesday afternoon on the New York Stock Exchange, near the high end of their 52-week range of $43.71 to $65.85. Lee shares were up 17 cents at $45.23 on the NYSE, having traded in the range of $43.05 to $49.87 over the past year.