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Newmark, Westly back KR employee buyout

The unions attempting to buy the 12 Knight Ridder newspapers for sale gained two well-known allies today — state Controller and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Steve Westly (left) and Craigslist founder Craig Newmark (right). The 12 papers include the Mercury News, Contra Costa Times, Monterey Herald and Palo Alto Daily News Group.

Newmark, a San Francisco resident whose Craigslist has been blamed for stealing newspaper revenues and causing newsroom layoffs, says he’s “rooting” for the employees. “It would certainly be a welcome development to see people who actually work in the journalism business have some real influence over their place of work. They understand that newspapers have to be more than black ink on dead trees,” said Newmark, according to a quote posted at www.savethemerc.com.

Westly, an Atherton resident and eBay millionaire, is battling state Treasurer Phil Angelides for the Democratic nomination for governor. Westly wrote a letter asking McClatchy chief executive and chairman Gary Pruitt to give fair consideration to the union proposal, which is backed by billionaire Ron Burkle’s Yucaipa Companies. That proposal “has considerable support in the communities served by these newspapers and from prominent leaders in the news industry,” Westly wrote, according to a press release from the Guild union. Westly also called on McClatchy to ensure that the union bid receives “all the relevant information they need to make a fair offer.”

Burkle, a Beverly Hills resident who made billions in leveraged buyouts of supermarket chains, is a major Democratic Party fundraiser who has former President Bill Clinton and the Rev. Jesse Jackson on his Yucaipa Companies’ board of directors. SF Examiner columnist P.J. Corkery reported March 8 that Burkle’s bid for the KR papers is partially financed by the Dubai Investment Group, owned by the government of the United Arab Emirates. [LA Times: Union seeks political support]

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