Seattle Times Co. sells Maine newspapers
With mixed emotions, Seattle Times Publisher and Chief Executive Frank Blethen today announced the sale of a newspaper chain that the company...
Seattle Times staff reporter
With mixed emotions, Seattle Times Publisher and Chief Executive Frank Blethen today announced the sale of a newspaper chain that the company had purchased to commemorate the Blethen family's legacy in Maine and to grow its newspaper holdings.
The papers, operating under the Blethen Maine Newspapers umbrella, are being bought by Maine Today Media, a consortium led by Rich Connor, a native of Bangor, Maine.
The Seattle Times Co., suffering financial losses, did not disclose the sale terms or price, but the papers had been expected to sell for far less than the company had paid for them. The Times borrowed about $213 million to purchase the Maine newspapers in 1998, an internal company document indicated.
"Local independent newspaper ownership best serves communities, and we are pleased Rich Connor was able to put together a group to buy Blethen Maine Newspapers," Blethen said in a prepared statement.
The sale was stalled by the poor economy, which complicated the buyer's ability to get financing.
In an interview in February, Blethen said: "We were sitting here in September and between Maine and the [Times-owned] 1000 Denny Building, we had $100 million in assets the family had firm offers for, and were going to sell, and we lost both sales because of the stock market, and since then no one is willing to give them any liquidity."
While the sale of the Maine papers helps The Times Co.'s financial picture, the pressure is not off, Carolyn Kelly, company president and chief operating officer, wrote in an e-mail to employees this afternoon.
"The sale of Blethen Maine Newspapers has taken longer than we hoped, but we are very pleased to have successfully completed this transaction,... " Kelly said. "While it's good to have the sale completed, it does not solve the financial challenges we face. We must continue the hard work in which you are all participating to drive both revenue generation and cost containment as we navigate through this tough recession."
The sale includes the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram, the Kennebec Journal in Augusta, and the Morning Sentinel in Waterville. Also included is the local news and information site MaineToday.com, as well as a number of nondaily print publications.
The family was reluctant to make the sale, Blethen wrote in the release, but it needed to focus its attention on the company's Washington state newspapers.
Blethen's great-grandfather, Alden, the founder of The Seattle Times in 1896, was a Maine native who grew up in Waldo County. The commitment to buy the papers grew from a family retreat to Maine.
The Seattle Times is a 112-year-old, fourth- and fifth-generation family business, and is the family's flagship paper. The company also owns the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin; the Yakima Herald-Republic, the Issaquah Press and other newspapers.
Lynda V. Mapes: 206-464-2736 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company
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