The Seattle Times Co. has had enough of Maine. After a decade of owning the Portland Press Herald, Kennebec Journal, Morning Sentinel and other media properties - collectively known as the Blethen Maine Newspapers - the Washington state company is getting out.
On March 17, the Times announced it was putting its Maine interests on the market, because, according to a statement by Seattle Times CEO and publisher Frank Blethen, "a sale may be the best opportunity for the long-term survival of our newspapers in Washington and those in Maine." Last week, the company announced layoffs and cutbacks at the Press Herald (see "Big cuts at Blethen"
) due to declining advertising revenue. Although there's been no official announcement, the Portland paper's daily price will increase in April from 60 cents to 75 cents.
The Seattle Times has hired Dirks, Van Essen & Murray of Santa Fe, NM, to handle the sale. The company specializes in newspaper mergers and acquisitions. Blethen officials said they hope to complete the deal by the end of 2008, although, according to a broadcast report, they don't have a buyer lined up at this time.
The Times is reported to have paid over $200 million for the Maine papers in 1998. Industry insiders are already speculating the weakened earnings in recent years may mean Blethen is worth $100 million or less today, although that figure could be on the low side, considering the company's valuable real estate in downtown Portland, as well as sites in South Portland, Augusta and Waterville.
While there's been no word yet on any local investors who might bid for the papers, the sale is likely to attract attention from several national chains.
- Filed March 17, 2008
Al Diamon can be e-mailed at email@example.com.