Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Honolulu | Third bidder emerges for Star-Bulletin

Texan Brian Ferguson, managing principal of Anthem Newspaper Holdings, plus a group of other Texas-based investors, are reportedly seeking to buy the Star-Bulletin, the paper says in a report that cites sources familiar with the bidding process.

The Star-Bulletin's owner put the paper up for sale to win U.S. Justice Department approval for its purchase of Gannett's Honolulu Advertiser. That deal was announced in late February. All of the Advertiser's 600 employees were given layoff notices, although many presumably would be re-hired by the Advertiser's presumptive new owner, Oahu Publications, should the deal be consummated.

But Oahu's business plan is predicated on the demise of the Star-Bulletin, which few think will actually be sold. So, it's unclear what would happen to the deal with Gannett should the Star-Bulletin survive under new owners.

[Image: today's paper, Newseum]


  1. Actually, the rumors/scuttlebutt going around is that if/when the sale of the Advertiser is complete, most of the employees from the Star-Bulletin will move to the new paper, leaving the majority of folks at the Advertiser out of work. In the newsroom (around 115 people) maybe 20 or so will be kept when all is said and done. If someone buys the S-B, then presumably the S-B employees will move over to the new paper and the Advertiser people will have to re-apply for jobs with the new owner of the S-B.

  2. From Editor and Publisher.

    Ferguson: I'm Not Buying the 'Honolulu Star-Bulletin'

    By Mark Fitzgerald

    Published: April 07, 2010
    CHICAGO Private equity investor Brian Ferguson doesn't comment publicly on possible acquisitions by his Anthem Newspaper Holdings -- but he wants everyone to know that he's not buying The Honolulu Star-Bulletin.

    "We would not be interested in buying the Star-Bulletin as it's been offered for sale -- and would be surprised if anyone out there thinks that buying the Star-Bulletin as a standalone property is anything but a suicide mission," Ferguson said in an interview Wednesday afternoon.

    Ferguson also batted down reports in Honolulu media that he wants to buy MidWeek, the big weekly that David Black's Oahu Publication has not offered for sale. Black put the Star-Bulletin up for sale to satisfy the Antitrust Division as he buys the much bigger Honolulu Advertiser from Gannett Co. The deadline for preliminary bids was Monday.

    Ferguson said he is discussing the sale publicly because of persistent media reports identifying him as a "third bidder" for the paper. He doesn't want people to think he is involved in "saving" the Star-Bulletin as it exists now.

    "From my experience, I can tell you that this process takes a strong and intense toll on the emotions of everyone, whether in the newsroom or the production are or wherever," he said. "And the idea that anything close to the status quo is going to remain inn a market like this is very far-fetched. It's important to get rid of this idea that a white knight is going to come riding in on a horse."

    Anthem did make a proposal to Oahu Publications, but Ferguson declined to describe beyond saying it did not involve buying the Star-Bulletin as offered or MidWeek.

    Two parties have publicly identified themselves as bidders.

    Republican state Sen. Sam Slom and Malia Zimmerman, who co-founded the online news site Hawaii Reporter told the Star-Bulletin, in a story by Allison Schaefers, that they would change the paper into a smaller publication with an investigative focus.

    Frederick "Derick" Harris also confirmed a bid, the Star-Bulletin reported, describing him as “a Big Island-based entrepreneur.”

    This corrects an earlier version that wrongly identified Schaefers as an Advertiser writer and attributed Star-Bulletin reporting to the Advertiser.

    Mark Fitzgerald (mfitzgerald@editorandpublisher.com) is editor of E&P.


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