Dean Singleton, who appears to be the leading contender to buy the Mercury News and Contra Costa Times, has become a newspaper mogul because he will take risks that others won’t. That’s the thrust of a story today (April 1) by reporters Joseph N. DiStefano and Larry Eichel of the Philadelphia Inquirer, another Knight Ridder paper Singleton wants to buy. The story points out that Singleton has a reputation for penny pinching, yet in Denver he took a struggling paper, added 50 reporters and won a Pulitzer. Former Bay Area editor Dave Burgin says, “I wouldn’t stop thinking for a second that he’s not obsessed with the bottom line — he is … He understands that you can’t be an artistic success unless you’re a financial success.” The story also says that Singleton, who suffers from MS, is becoming increasingly concerned about his legacy as a newspaper owner. [How clustering works at Singleton’s Bay Area papers]

SINGLETON’S FINANCES: This story gives, perhaps for the first time, financial data on the Singleton’s privately-held chain of 40 dailies, known as MediaNews, which includes the Oakland Tribune, Marin Independent Journal and San Mateo County Times. It says that for the year ended June 2005, MediaNews had net income of $39.9 million on $1.08 billion in sales, after deducting $49.5 million for interest payments. That’s a 4% margin. But if earnings are computed before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA), it would come to $161 million or 15%. Knight Ridder’s EBITDA for the past 12 months was 19.82% and McClatchy’s was 26.8%, according to Google Finance.

SF Press Club News

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