Dean Singleton (pictured) said today (April 26) that he knows how much Knight Ridder Chairman Tony Ridder loved the San Jose Mercury News, and he promised to “make him proud” once his MediaNews takes over the paper in July. Ridder, who was standing next to Singleton when he made that vow before Merc employees, called Singleton a man who “loves newspapers” and will be “a very good steward of the Mercury News.” [Audio of Singleton’s remarks at the Contra Costa Times]
That said, other headlines emerging from today’s news that MediaNews will acquire the Merc, Contra Costa Times, Monterey Hearld, St. Paul Pioneer Press, Palo Alto Daily News Group and Silicon Valley Community Newspapers in a $1 billion deal:
- • Hearst Corp. assisted Singleton in making the purchase, by agreeing to buy the Monterey and St. Paul Papers for him, and then selling those papers to him in return for a stake in Singleton’s non-Bay Area newspapers. While Hearst and Singleton are now partners in most parts of the country, he said the Hearst-owned Chronicle is the “enemy” when it comes to the Bay Area market.
• This is a setback for the Newspaper Guild, which had teamed up with billionaire Ron Burkle to buy the Knight Ridder papers McClatchy was planning to sell. The Guild didn’t even get to first base — it wasn’t allowed to examine the Merc’s books — in order to make an informed bid. Outspoken Guild leader Linda Foley was quoted in Merc tonight as saying, “This really does smack of a backroom deal. I find the deal very troubling because of its complex nature and because of the fact it involves so many of these large media companies that compete with one another.”
• Traditionally new owners boot the publishers of newspapers they buy, but Singleton will keep the Merc’s George Riggs, who also oversees the Contra Costa Times, and the rest of the Merc’s top management.
• No layoffs are planned either. Singleton said, “Local management makes those decisions … Staffs go up, staffs go down … I can’t promise you they won’t go down.” No pay cuts, however.
• The deal is far from final — no closing date was announced — and the state Attorney General’s office reiterated tonight that it will investigate the antitrust ramifications of the the acquisition that will give MediaNews 700,000 newspaper readers daily in the Bay Area. U.S. Department of Justice approval of the deal is considered a slam dunk because the agency has favored business consolidations, but since the state Attorney General, Bill Lockyer, is a Democrat who has been supported by unions, it’s hard to say how that investigation will turn out.
• And perhaps it’s trivia, but we read in a Merc sidebar that Singleton, who has been in the newspaper business for 30 years, was once a reporter — in sports.
[Merc’s coverage] [Chronicle’s version] [Merc: Singleton is a shrewd bargainer] [AP’s main story] [AP sidebar: Singleton makes people nervous] [E&P: Employees raise concern about MediaNews takeover] [CCTimes editorial about the sale] [CCTimes: Editor says Singleton said all the right things in newsroom chat] [CCTimes: Map shows papers involved in deal] [CCTimes: Reaction from players, community members] (Photo by Karl Mondon, Contra Costa Times)