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M&A GRAB BAG: BOSTON, AUSTIN AND MAGS.

It's been a veritable grab-bag of media mergers and acquisitions in the last two weeks, with newspaper companies selling off magazines and radio stations, The New York Times Co. getting definite bids on its New England properties, The Hearst Corp. taking a larger position in the credit ratings business and more potential buyers looking at Texas' Austin American-Statesman.

Mid-July, The Times Publishing Co. of St. Petersburg, Fla., announced that it had cut a deal with the Economist Group -- 50 percent owned by Pearson PLC -- to sell its Congressional Quarterly Inc. No terms for the deal were disclosed.

Congressional Quarterly, which includes the magazine of the same name, as well as newsletters and electronic specialty publications, was founded by Nelson Poynter in 1945. When Poynter died in 1978 his daily paper -- Florida's St. Petersburg Times -- as well as CQ became assets of the non-profit journalism education organization, the Poynter Institute, also headquartered in St. Petersburg.

Times Publishing put CQ up for sale in January, citing the desire to "direct investment resources toward properties in Florida." The company had sold CQ Press, the CQ book division, last year.

And, to exit the magazine business entirely, the Florida company said last Tuesday that it had put Governing up for sale as well. The Washington-based magazine, with a monthly circulation of 80,000, has a companion web site, Governing.com.

Time Publishing has retained the New York City media broker Jordan Edmiston Group Inc. -- which handled the sale of CQ Books and CQ itself -- to shop Governing around.

In other newspaper-magazine M&A news, A.H. Belo Corp. said mid-July that it had sold its Rhode Island Monthly to the magazine's longtime president and publisher. No terms for the deal were revealed.

Belo and its Rhode Island newspaper, the Providence Journal, purchased the magazine in 1997, a decade after its founding. Upon the take-over, the Journal transferred over a newspaper ad exec, John Palumbo, to become the magazine's publisher and general manager. Palumbo bought the magazine 12 years later.

Palumbo told the Journal he had secured a U.S. Small Business Administration loan to finance the purchase of the 44,000-circulation magazine. The paper said that 91 percent of the magazine's circulation is subscription.

Also mid-month, Journal Communications Inc. of Milwaukee said that it had sold its two Boise, Idaho, AM radio stations to a the non-profit Salt & Light Radio Inc. The new owners, who paid $950,000 for the stations, said they would broadcast Catholic Christian programming on both, using English on one and Spanish on the other. Salt & Light has other Catholic Christian stations in the region, including in Reno, Salt Lake City, Spokane and Walla Walla, Wash.

Journal retains four FM stations in the market, as well as two TV stations.

The Boston Globe reported on Friday that two groups of local businessmen had submitted preliminary bids for the Globe, the Worcester Telegram & Gazette and their affiliated web sites. The paper said one group is led by Stephen Taylor, a former Globe executive whose family sold the paper to The New York Times Co. in 1993 for $1.1 billion.

The other group, led by investment capital expert Stephen Pagliuca and former adman Jack Connors, is planning to operate at least the Globe as a non-profit.

The paper reported that though The Times Co. has sought to sell the two papers as a package, the Telegram & Gazette may be sold separate. It said the T&G reported that "at least two local businessmen" had said they'd be interested in buying that paper.

The Globe also reported that the land and building that house the Globe are valued at $48 million, which may be the "floor price" for the operation. The paper said that local redevelopment planners have at least one scenario that has the Globe building demolished within 20 years.

In other Boston news, the Globe's unit of The Newspaper Guild/CWA voted mid-month to approve a contract that gives the paper $10 million in concessions, which management had said was necessary to continue publishing. The union had rejected an earlier offer and members had been forced into a 23-percent pay cut. The earlier offer was rejected by just 12 votes; July's offer was passed 366-179.

Lastly in Boston news, The Times Co. said during its earnings call on July 23 that it expects to sell its stake in the Major League Baseball franchise, the Boston Red Sox, by January. The company didn't speculate what it would get for its 17-3/4-percent stake in New England Sports Ventures.

Also mid-month, The Hearst Corp. said it had acquired an additional 20-percent stake in the global credit ratings agency Fitch Group, bringing its ownership to 40 percent. Hearst acquired the stake from Fimalac SA, Fitch's French parent company, which continues to own 60 percent of the business.

The deal is valued at 300 million ($US432-1/4 million) and is subject to approval by Hearst's board of directors. Hearst bought its original 20 percent in Fitch in 2006.

Lastly, Texas' Austin American-Statesman reported mid-month that three new potential buyers toured the paper's facilities earlier in the month. Cox Enterprises Inc., the Atlanta company that owns the paper, put it -- along with almost two dozen of its other papers -- up almost a year ago. As of early July, the company had liquidated all the papers it wanted to sell except Austin.

Among those touring the Austin facilities was Walter Hussman Jr., the owner of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and WEHCO Media Inc.

Sandy Schwartz, persident of the Cox Media Group, told the American-Statesman that "we're coming closer to the end of the process." That's good, because it must just be a blast to work for a paper that's been up for sale for 11 months.
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Title Annotation:mergers and acquisitions
Publication:NewsInc
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Aug 3, 2009
Words:959
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