Terms of the sale were not disclosed, but it is assumed to be a fraction of the more than $230 million that the Times borrowed to purchase the chain, which includes the Portland Press-Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram, the Kennebec Journal and the Morning Sentinel in Waterville, as well as a web site, MaineToday.com.
Regarding the sale price, Tom Bell, the Newspaper Guild president in Maine, told Maine Public Broadcasting this morning that "we know it's a fraction of what the Blethen's paid for it when they bought it some eleven years ago." Several months ago sources in Maine had told Bill Richards of Crosscut that the chain's value may have slipped to only $28 million—essentially the value of the paper's real estate real estate. Richards has also previously reported that the Times owes
Despite severe layoffs, the Maine properties have been hemorraging money that the financially-strapped Times Company could ill afford to pay. The sale, expected to be completed in January, was delayed for months by a lack of financing.
I contacted Times Company spokesperson Jill Mackie to ask what the sale meant for the short and longer-term financial outlokk for the Seattle Times. Mackie replied that the sale is "definitely a positive development and a necessary step to get The Seattle Times and our affiliate newspapers on sound financial footing. That said, it does not solve the financial challenges we face." She added, "We must continue to drive both revenue generation and cost containment as we navigate through this tough recession," before reiterating the Times' commitment to continue publishing "for many years to come."
The Times release is after the jump.
For Immediate Release – June 15, 2009
Blethen Maine Newspapers Sold to MaineToday Media, Inc.
The Seattle Times Company, parent company of Blethen Maine Newspapers, announced today that it has sold Blethen Maine Newspapers to MaineToday Media Inc., a consortium led by Bangor, Maine native, Rich Connor.
“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,” said Frank Blethen, Chairman of Blethen Maine Newspapers and Publisher of The Seattle Times.
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 premier local news and information site, MaineToday.com, as well as a number of non-daily print publications. Terms of the agreement, including the sale price, will not be disclosed publicly.
Blethen said his family was reluctant to sell the Maine newspapers, but needed to focus their attention on their Washington state newspapers. Blethen noted that his family had a special affinity to Maine as his great-grandfather, Alden, the founder of The Seattle Times in 1896, was a Maine native who grew up in Waldo County.
The Seattle Times is a 112-year-old locally owned journalism and community service company. Founded in 1896 by Alden J. Blethen, The Seattle Times is a fourth and fifth generation family business. The family's flagship newspaper, The Seattle Times, is the largest daily newspaper in Washington state and serves the largest audience in the Northwest. The flagship Web site, Seattletimes.com, enjoys the largest audience in the greater Seattle metropolitan area. Other Blethen-owned newspapers in Washington are the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin, the Yakima Herald-Republic, The Issaquah Press and its community newspapers: the Newcastle News, the Sammamish Review and the SnoValley Star. More company information, including links to the newspaper Web sites, is available at www.seattletimescompany.com.