Report says Philly newspaper co. is again for sale

(AP Photo)

January 30, 2012 4:05:28 PM PST
The company that operates Philadelphia's two largest newspapers is up for sale again, less than a year and a half after creditors took them over, according to a published report.

The New York Post said Philadelphia Media Network is for sale for $100 million. In a September 2010 bankruptcy auction, the company paid $139 million for the newspapers and the website. In 2006, the papers and the website were sold for $515 million.

Alden Global Capital, which specializes in buying the debt of companies in financial trouble, may sell its 30 percent stake, according to the Post, which cited an unidentified person close to the situation. Alden Global had been a lead player in the creditors' $139 million takeover of the company in a September 2010 bankruptcy auction. The auction followed a bitter fight for control between creditors and local investors.

Executives of Philadelphia Media Network did not confirm the weekend report, but said investors in the company regularly rotate their holdings.

"A single minority owner does not have the right to sell the entire company, only their percentage of ownership," CEO Greg Osberg said in a memo sent to staff Monday.

The report comes as the Philadelphia newspapers are preparing to leave their flagship headquarters and move to a much smaller space in the former Strawbridge & Clothier building. Newspaper Guild leaders had planned to meet Tuesday with company officials about a "One Newsroom" concept, the Guild said on its website. The Inquirer and Daily News have separate newsroom staff.

The 2010 auction followed a bitter fight for control between creditors and local investors. The creditors prevailed and pledged to avoid layoffs for a year. After the commitment expired last fall, about 30 employees left through either layoffs or voluntary buyouts, the Guild said.

Bob Hall, the company's chief operating officer, declined comment on whether the company was for sale. But he said it wasn't unusual for ownership stakes to fluctuate.

Media analyst Ken Doctor said the sale could mean that Alden Global is revising its recent strategy of acquiring stakes in newspapers during the economic downturn. Or it could mean that "they have just made an assessment in the Philadelphia area, and they want to cash out of that," Doctor said.

Alden Global did not return a call left at its New York headquarters.