A local investment group has stepped up to the plate to buy Maine’s largest newspaper and associated publications from the Blethen family, which also owns the Seattle Times. No price was announced, but the question now is whether the would-be buyers can actually get the deal financed in the current economy.
The Seattle Times Co. put Blethen Maine Newspapers up for sale about eight months ago – and both the newspaper business and the general economy have gone downhill since then. But a deal has now been signed to sell the group of Maine newspapers to an investor group, Maine Media Investment LLC, that includes William Cohen, the former Senator and Defense Secretary from Maine. The senior operating partner is Richard Connor, a Maine native who is currently editor and publisher of The Times Leader in Wilkes-Barre, PA.
Blethen Maine Newspapers includes the Portland Press Herald and Maine Sunday Telegram, the state’s largest daily and Sunday newspapers, the Kennebec Journal in Augusta, the Morning Sentinel in Waterville and some smaller properties.
“Although the sale is still contingent on the buyer obtaining a portion of its financing, both parties are optimistic that the transaction will close, despite tight credit markets,” Blethen Maine Newspapers CEO Charles Cochrane was quoted as saying by the Portland Press Herald.
Noting that this is likely the worst time to borrow money in the last 40 years, Connor, the head of the would-be buyer, told the newspaper, “We’ve taken on a pretty big task.”
RBR/TVBR observation: As hard as it is to value broadcasting properties these days, putting a value on newspaper properties has to be an even bigger challenge. But that’s been done and the bigger challenge awaits – finding lenders willing to back a large newspaper purchase.