Connor Asks State Fund to Invest
Pension tension: Pennsylvania newspaper publisher Richard Connor, head of the group seeking to buy the Blethen Maine Newspapers, went before the Maine Public Employees Retirement System board of trustees on March 12 and asked them to help fund the deal.
Christopher Cousins of the Statehouse News Service appears to have been the only reporter present when Connor and Peter Brodsky, a partner in HM Capital Partners (the Dallas, Texas investment firm that’s part of the Connor group), told the board, “we can make a lot of money” in the newspaper industry.
According to Cousins, Brodsky said the price the group would be paying for the Portland Press Herald, Morning Sentinel and Kennebec Journal was “a fraction” of the $230 million Blethen paid in 1998, but he refused to disclose the exact amount because of a confidentiality agreement with the Blethens.
Brodsky said his firm was investing about $1.1 million in the Blethen purchase. Connor said he also has bank financing, but it’s contingent on finding $10 million in additional backing. According to another source familiar with the proceedings, he’s asking the retirement system for $5 million.
Brodsky said the group needed a decision quickly because he and Connor were on “a very tight time line. I believe we have a couple of weeks.”
Retirement system officials quoted by Cousins were less than enthusiastic about the idea, but said they‘ll likely have their staff and a consultant examine the proposal before making a decision. Connor continued to express optimism, saying he thinks the sale “is going to happen” regardless of whether the state fund decides to invest.
According to the source mentioned above, Connor was surprised and displeased when he discovered a reporter was present at the board meeting. Such meetings are rarely covered by the diminished State House press corps.
Connor closes a deal: According to a story in the March 13 Portland Press Herald, Connor had a busy week. He completed the purchase of the Black Mountain Community News, a monthly free paper covering suburban Wilkes-Barre, Pa.
Naming rights – and wrongs: The March 12 Morning Sentinel carried a front-page story naming a 14-year-old boy charged with threatening classmates at Messalonskee Middle School in Oakland with a loaded gun.
The March 12 Portland Press Herald, the Sentinel’s sister paper, carried a briefer version of the story credited to the Kennebec Journal (although no such story was posted on the KJ’s Web site) that included this paragraph: “The filing also made public the boy’s name, but the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram only identifies juveniles charged with more serious crimes.”
I’m not sure how “serious” a crime has to be before the Press Herald identifies a juvenile, but it seems as if a case involving threatening school kids with a gun ought to qualify. And even if it didn’t for some quirky reason, what’s the point of concealing a name that’s readily available online at the same Web site the Press Herald shares with the Sentinel and KJ?
Holley jolly: The Press Herald continues to be inconsistent in publishing disclaimers about its conflict of interest involving Plum Creek Timber Co. A business brief in the March 13 paper on Plum Creek CEO Rick Holley’s 21 percent pay increase in 2008 makes no mention of Holley being a member of the board of the Press Herald’s parent company.
Is there some reason that’s no longer important? If so, readers deserve to be told.
Al Diamon can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.