Tim Hoiles: Let Freedom Ring

By: Lucia Moses

With the Freedom Communications Inc. “black book” set to go out to potential suitors as early as next month, its family shareholders’ annual meeting in Huntington Beach, Calif., last Friday and Saturday was sure to be anything but dull.

In a sign of continued infighting over Freedom’s future, Timothy C. Hoiles, grandson of its founder and one of the most vocal proponents of a sale of the company, lashed out at Chairman R. David Threshie and Director Richard A. Wallace in a letter to shareholders dated Wednesday. Threshie and Wallace cast the only two ballots against exploring a sale when the matter came before the board for a vote last month.

The feuding has made the chairmanship “a lightning rod for criticism,” Freedom CEO and President Alan J. Bell said on Friday. Bell has been speaking on behalf of the board.

“My position of January 2002 has not changed,” Hoiles wrote in his letter. “I am still a hostage: I wish to get out and at a fair price.” While he didn’t name a price, he previously had asked for $200 a share for his 8.6% stake in Freedom, parent of The Orange County Register in Santa Ana, Calif., 27 other daily newspapers, 37 weekly publications, eight TV stations, and a number of affiliated Web sites.

In his letter, Hoiles urged his fellow shareholders to support the sale-exploration process.

This month, John F. Bitzer Jr., an outside director, resigned, in part over his concern that the company was following a process he called “unfairly biased in favor of a sale.” Interestingly, Bitzer voted last month in favor of exploring a sale.

E&P welcomes letters to the editor: letters@editorandpublisher.com.

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