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Pasadena Star-News Sold to Unit of Canadian Chain

August 22, 1990|BERKLEY HUDSON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

A subsidiary of the Toronto-based Thomson Newspaper Group has purchased the majority interest in the 43,000-circulation Pasadena Star-News, a daily newspaper covering the western San Gabriel Valley.

The Thomson-owned San Gabriel Valley Tribune Inc. announced that it acquired the controlling interest by purchasing Star-News common stock previously owned by Texas media mogul William Dean Singleton.

Singleton retains a minority interest, according to F. Al Totter, president of San Gabriel Valley Newspaper Management Co.

The management company has overseen business operations of both newspapers for more than a year. Early this month, the company named a single editor to coordinate news coverage of the Star-News, the San Gabriel Valley Daily Tribune and the Whittier Daily News, also owned by Thomson.

On Tuesday, Totter would not disclose the terms of the sale nor would he say what percentage of stock was sold.

Singleton, whose MediaNews Group owns the Houston Post, the Denver Post and dozens of other newspapers in nine states, bought the Star-News for $55 million from the Knight-Ridder newspaper chain in June 1989.

Only months before the deal, he had said that even $50 million was too much to pay for the 103-year-old Star-News. Singleton later denied reports that he was acting as an agent for Thomson. But on several occasions, Singleton has sold newspapers to Thomson.

Newspaper industry observers have said that Knight-Ridder, a widely respected chain with papers including the Miami Herald and the Philadelphia Inquirer, did not want to sell the Pasadena newspaper to a foreign company.

Nonetheless, one month after Singleton bought the Star-News, he announced that the newspaper would enter into a joint venture with the West Covina-based San Gabriel Valley Daily Tribune.

Under that agreement, the two major suburban newspapers of the San Gabriel Valley announced that they were combining key parts of their business operations. Since then, the newspapers have increasingly pooled resources in their editorial products, with the same stories and photographs often appearing in both papers.

With the purchase the majority of Singleton's stock, Thomson has a three-newspaper domain in Los Angeles County, with combined total circulation of 124,000. Of this number, the Tribune accounts for 63,000 and the Whittier Daily News, 18,000. Thomson is one of the largest newspaper companies in Canada.

Newspaper industry analysts widely believe that Singleton is highly leveraged and needs to reduce his debt, and the sale of some Star-News stock probably would serve that need. Singleton could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Totter said, "It's a pretty straightforward situation of a purchase of stock."

Tribune managing editor George Pinkerton was named to coordinate news coverage at the three papers, with one of his duties to eliminate overlap, Totter said.

He said the sale would bring no significant changes other than a joint marketing campaign. Already, he said, the management company has overseen installation of new computer equipment at the newspapers.

Totter would not say whether there would be layoffs or additions to staff. He said the company would "just let the market drive it."

Totter said fears of the Star-News being subsumed by the Tribune are unfounded. "We feel that each publication has to be autonomous," he said.

Times staff writer Thomas B. Rosenstiel contributed to this story from Washington.

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