Swapping Papers p. 32

By: TONY CASE LOOKING TO BOLSTER their territorial strongholds, W. Dean Singleton's Garden State Newspapers Inc. and Hollinger International Inc. are swapping several newspapers.
Garden State will sell the 103-year-old Johnstown Tribune-Democrat, a 47,000-circulation daily in central Pennsylvania, to Hollinger. Hollinger, in turn, will sell Garden State six smaller dailies and three weeklies in Colorado, Massachusetts, Nebraska and New Jersey.
Terms weren't disclosed. No broker was involved, according to Garden State chief financial officer Joseph J. Lodovic IV.
"This transaction adds enormous strength to three of our most important regional newspaper divisions," said Singleton, Garden State president and CEO.
The deal, expected to close April 30, reflects the industry trend of newspaper groups enhancing their regional positions by buying up properties near ones they already own.
In one such instance last year, Knight-Ridder Inc. acquired Lesher Communications Inc., publisher of the Contra Costa Times and four other dailies in California, where the company operates the San Jose Mercury News.
Other clustering strategies include Richmond-based Media General Inc.'s purchase of another Virginia chain, Worrell Enteprises Inc., and Fidelity Capital's gradually snatching up hundreds of weeklies across suburban Boston.
And to build on its Chicago Sun-Times acquisition, Hollinger added a number of newspapers in the area, including the Daily Southtown and two weekly groups, Pioneer Press and Star Publications.
With Johnstown, Hollinger raises its profile in western Pennsylvania, where it owns several papers.
Garden State's acquisitions complement its existing assets, as well. The dailies it's getting from Hollinger are the North Adams Transcript in Massachusetts, Bridgeton Evening News in New Jersey, Nebraska's Sidney Telegraph and Colorado's Sterling Journal-Advocate, Fort Morgan Times and Lamar Daily News. The weeklies, all in Colorado, are the Akron News-Reporter, Brush News-Tribune and Julesberg Advocate.
The newly acquired Massachusetts paper neighbors Garden State's Berkshire Eagle in Pittsfield, Mass., and Bennington (Vt.) Banner.
The New Jersey daily is situated near the company's two other properties in southern Jersey, the Gloucester County Times and Today's Sunbeam of Salem.
And by snagging the Colorado titles, Singleton hopes to strengthen the position of one of his prized possessions, the Denver Post, which in recent years has made strides against E.W. Scripps Co.'s Rocky Mountain News.
That competition, which constitutes one of the country's last great daily newspaper wars, has intensified since the News' announcement last year that it was abandoning statewide distribution to concentrate on metropolitan Denver. Garden State's Colorado acquisitions all are located in the sparse, eastern part of the state.
Garden State, a subsidiary of Affiliated Newspapers Investments Inc., is managed by MediaNews Group, which now will operate 93 newspapers in 11 states.
Hollinger publishes 137 dailies worldwide, including the Chicago Sun-Times and London Daily Telegraph. It also has an interest in 397 nondaily papers, as well as other publications.
Hollinger buys Pennsylvania daily from Singleton's Garden State Newspapers; Singleton acquires nine Hollinger
?("This transaction adds enormous strength to three of our most important regional newspaper divisions.") [Caption]
?(? Dean Singleton, Garden State president and CEO) [Photo & Caption]


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