Singleton Plans to Take Over JOA Rival in York, Pa.

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By: Joe Strupp

MediaNews Group Inc., which owns The York (Pa.) Dispatch, is planning to take control of the rival York Daily Record by the end of June, according to Daily Record Editor and Publisher Dennis Hetzel.

Hetzel confirmed that Denver-based MediaNews filed a disclosure statement with the Securities and Exchange Commission on Monday, stating that the company anticipated a deal to be completed during its fiscal fourth quarter, which runs from April to June.

“I’m not surprised,” said Hetzel. “There has been a lot of talk in the background on this. The two sides are having the kind of discussions you have.”

William Dean Singleton, vice-chairman and CEO of MediaNews Group, confirmed the filing, but said it does not mean a sale is finalized. “Our intention now is that we anticipate we will” buy the Record, he said. “Things can change. But that is the option we are exercising.”

The Daily Record, the morning paper owned by Buckner News Alliance, and the Dispatch, the afternoon paper, have operated in a joint operating agreement since 1990. Under a JOA provision added in 1996, MediaNews has an option during 2004 to buy the Daily Record for a previously agreed upon price of about $32 million.

If MediaNews does not choose to buy the paper during 2004, a second provision would kick in on Jan. 1, 2005. That option would allow Buckner to force MediaNews to buy the Daily Record at anytime between 2005 and 2007.

If neither of the options are exercised by the end of 2007, the JOA continues as it is until 2090.

“We will see what happens,” said Singleton, who declined to comment on his exact plans or timeline for a takeover, but stressed that he would plan on keeping both papers open. “York still supports two newspapers,” said Singleton. “The intention is to keep two strong newspapers operating.”

Shawn Ledington, Daily Record unit chair for the Communication Workers of America Local 38218, which represents most of the workers at both papers, said her members would have to be given 60 days notice before any sale is finalized. “We will be happy to know what the future is,” she said. “We’re looking forward to having a resolution.”

The JOA is run by the York Newspaper Co. (Click for QuikCap), which is controlled by MediaNews. Singleton’s company also operates the lone Sunday paper, the York Sunday News.

The Daily Record’s Monday-Friday circulation is 43,108, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations report of Sept. 30, 2003. The Dispatch circulation was 39,900 for the same period and the York Sunday News circ was 92,500.

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