By: George Garneau
IN ITS SECOND mass divestiture to Hollinger in a month, Thomson Newspapers has agreed in principle to sell 12 small U.S dailies to a unit of Canadian publisher Conrad Black’s Hollinger Inc.
It is a transaction between giants: Thomson owns 142 dailies in North America. Hollinger, through its American Publishing Co. subsidiary, owns 96 worldwide. Toronto-based Hollinger owns 66% of American Publishing, the public company based at its flagship Chicago Sun-Times.
The deal, announced Aug. 7, includes small dailies and related papers in the South, Midwest and Northeast. The dailies range in circulation from 6,200 to 21,000, and have a combined circulation of 114,000.
The sale, whose terms were not disclosed, comes as Thomson has embarked on two separate plans to unload a total of 46 unwanted dailies ? 25 U.S. and 14 Canadian ? as part of separate strategic reorganizations of its U.S. and Canadian newspaper operations.
In the United States, Thomson is forming 15 “strategic marketing groups” clustered geographically. By offering more print and electronic services, the units are aimed at transforming Thomson from a chain of geographically diverse, stand-alone papers into “a marketing and communications organization.”
The latest deal follows Thomson’s July 27 announcement of plans to sell 12 small Canadian dailies, in Ontario and Saskatchewan, to American Publishing.
Thomson announced agreements to sell its unwanted Canadian papers, while plans to sell three remaining U.S. dailies should be announced “shortly,” according to Dick Harrington, president of Stamford, Conn.-based Thomson Newspapers. Thomson’s U.S. papers going to Hollinger “are all sound businesses,” but just don’t fit the new strategy, Harrington said. The companies expect to close on definitive agreement by Sept. 30.
Larry Perrotto, president and CEO of American Publishing, said the papers he is buying “have characteristics consistent with our present rural and semi-urban daily and weekly publications.”
“We don’t anticipate many changes . . . other than updating equipment at some of the locations,” Perrotto said.
Getting new ownership are: in Texas, the Big Spring Herald, Del Rio News-Herald, Huntsville Item, and Marshall News-Messenger; in New York state, the Herkimer Evening Telegram, Olean Times-Herald and Oswego Palladium-Times; in Missouri the Mexico Ledger and Sikeston Standard-Democrat; elsewhere, the Ada (Okla.) Evening News, Corbin, Ky., Times-Tribune and Leavenworth (Kan.) Times.
In a separate but related deal, announced and effective July 31, Thomson and Howard Publications traded papers in Indiana. Thomson gave up its 16,000-circulation Vidette- Messenger in Valparaiso in exchange for Howard’s 14,000-circulation Pharos-Tribune in Logansport.
The swap adds the Messenger to Thomson’s Indiana marketing group: the Terre Haute Tribune-Star, Kokomo Tribune, and Anderson Herald-Bulletin.
For Howard, a group of 18 dailies based in Oceanside, Calif., the Vidette Messenger joins its 68,000-circulation Times in Munster, Ind., 20 miles west of Valparaiso.
Also as part of its divestiture, Thomson has sold three small dailies to Forum Communications Co. Terms were not disclosed. Under new ownership are the Daily Republic, Mitchell, S.D.; Dickinson (N.D.) Press; and Daily Globe, Worthington, Minn.
Based in Fargo, N.D, Forum publishes the 53,000-circulation Fargo Forum and 17,000-circulation West Central Tribune in Willmar, Minn.