Thomson Resells Arkansas Daily p. 16

By: Mark Fitzgerald After being forced to undo the sale to the Stephens family,
the chain reaches a deal to sell it to American Publishing sp.

THOMSON NEWSPAPERS INC. ? forced by a court to undo its sale of the Northwest Arkansas Times to the Stephens family ? has reached an agreement to sell the Fayetteville daily to American Publishing Co., APC announced Sept. 12.
The sale apparently solves two big problems for Thomson: It sheds a paper that no longer fits in the chain's new strategic reorganization ? and it satisfies the Benton County Daily Record, which went to court claiming the sale would create a newspaper monopoly in northwest Arkansas.
Earlier this year, Thomson sold the Times for $22 million to NAT L.C., a Little Rock-based investment firm owned by the family of investor Jackson T. Stephens. The Stephens family, who have extensive business and political influence in Arkansas, also own an interest in Donrey Media, the chain that operates the Morning News of northwest Arkansas and circulates in the Springdale and Rogers area.
Community Publishers Inc., owner of the Daily Record, successfully challenged the sale in a Feb. 6 lawsuit, which was joined by the U.S. Justice Department and a representative of local advertisers.
U.S. District Judge Franklin Waters, ruling that the sale violates antitrust laws, had ordered Thomson to take the paper back by Aug. 19.
The sales agreement with American Publishing Co. comes very shortly after a flurry of court activity in the case.
On Aug. 17, Thomson won a stay in federal court allowing NAT L.C. to continue operating the paper ? but that stay was itself overturned and Thomson was told to take the paper back by Sept. 20.
Community Publishers Inc. hailed the sale to American Publishing.
"Basically, we got what we wanted," CPI president Steve Trolinger said.
"The goal of our lawsuit, stopping Donrey from ever owning the Fayetteville newspaper, has been achieved, thereby insuring competition in the market to the benefit of our customers," Trolinger said.
American Publishing Co. president and chief executive officer Larry Perrotto said that the sale to APC, a unit of Conrad Black's Hollinger Inc., should end the litigation.
"I can't imagine why it would continue," he said. "We do have a number of papers in Arkansas, but none in that area."


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