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Singleton said to be close to deal for Merc

Reporter Chris O’Brien of the Mercury News reported this morning that, according to unidentified “individuals familiar with the process,” Dean Singleton’s MediaNews is in “advanced discussions” to buy the Mercury News, Contra Costa Times, Monterey County Herald and St. Paul Pioneer Dispatch. “These sources said an agreement could be reached ‘soon’ for the purchase of the four papers,” O’Brien wrote. It is believed that such a deal would also include KR assets such as the Palo Alto Daily News Group and Silicon Valley Community Newspapers.

Previously, Singleton was talking about buying Knight Ridder’s Philadelphia papers as well, but this story contains no mention of them.

The news about Singleton was in the sixth paragraph of a story concerning details of the sale of Knight Ridder to McClatchy Co., which is now selling 12 of KR’s 32 papers to reduce its debt. The story, based on a 200-page Security and Exchange Commission filing by McClatchy, says that when Knight Ridder put itself up for sale in December, 11 parties expressed an interest in Knight Ridder, but by March only one — McClatchy — submitted a full, final bid. Singleton didn’t bid despite a lot of talk before the deadline and tours he took of the newspapers for sale.

If Singleton, who already owns eight Bay Area dailies, acquires Knight Ridder’s northern California assets, he will have two papers in San Mateo, Pleasanton and Alameda. His circulation in the Bay Area would increase from 297,952 per day to 824,560, dwarfing that of the Chronicle, which has about 400,000 daily.

[Sacramento Bee (McClatchy-owned): Value of deal changes with stock price] [AP: McClatchy discloses details on Ridder] [KR’s Mercury News: How the sale went down: Knight Ridder’s gloomy options]

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