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Owner of Orange County Register Buys 30 Weeklies

November 29, 1989|JIM CARLTON and JONATHAN WEBER | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

Freedom Newspapers Inc., owner of the Orange County Register, has agreed to purchase 30 suburban weekly newspapers in Los Angeles and Orange counties from Media General Inc. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed, but the price is believed to be about $20 million.

The chain, Golden West Publishing Inc., includes 22 titles in eastern Los Angeles County and northern Orange County that are part of City of Industry-based Highlander Publications, as well as eight weeklies in southern Orange County that are part of the South Orange County News group. South Orange County News also has a contract to handle printing and advertising services for a weekly serving the El Toro Marine Corps base.

Media General, based in Richmond, Va., put the papers up for sale Oct. 17, stating that they were too remote, both geographically and strategically, from the company's core daily newspaper operations in the East.

R. David Threshie, publisher of the Orange County Register, said it was too early to comment on how the weeklies would fit into the company's plans. The Register and The Times are locked in a fierce battle for Orange County readers and advertising dollars, and The Times had considered making a bid for Golden West.

Chicago Sun-Times Publisher Robert E. Page was also a bidder for the weeklies, and sources said Howard Publishing Group, owner of the San Clemente Sun-Post, and Tom McCartin, who owns four weeklies in Dallas, also submitted bids.

Freedom Newspapers and Media General said they expected to reach a definitive agreement on the sale early next year.

The Golden West publications have a combined circulation of 470,000, with all but one of the papers distributed free to community residents. While the Highlander titles in Los Angeles County, such as the Azusa Herald and the San Gabriel Sun, have a larger total circulation, the South Orange County News publications--including Leisure World News and the Saddleback Valley News--were considered particularly desireable because they are located in affluent and fast-growing areas.

Golden West employs about 350 people, and company President Douglas E. Hanes said no layoffs were anticipated at this time.

Ron Redfern, chief executive of Golden West, said: "We're excited the ownership will go to a large chain like Freedom that is committed to the Southern California market."

Freedom publishes 27 newspapers and owns five television stations. Its largest property by far is the Orange County Register, with a daily circulation of 343,899.

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