ST. LOUIS — Pulitzer Publishing Co. announced Monday that it has agreed to buy Scripps League Newspapers for between $230 million and $240 million.
Five Scripps League newspapers are in California, including the Record-Gazette in Banning, the Hanford Sentinel, the Napa Valley Register, the Santa Maria Times and the Daily Midway Driller in Taft.
Pulitzer publishes the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and the Arizona Daily Star of Tucson.
The acquisition signals a change of direction for Pulitzer, which lately has been making acquisitions in the radio and television industry. Pulitzer operates nine network-affiliated television stations and two radio stations.
"It gives more weight to their newspaper operations," said analyst John Morton of Lynch, Jones & Ryan Inc. "The small-town newspaper business is a good, solid business, one that will prove very useful to Pulitzer."
Pulitzer shares were unchanged at $57.50 on the New York Stock Exchange.
Scripps League, based in Charlottesville, Va., is a privately held publisher of 16 dailies, mostly in small cities in the West and Midwest. It also publishes about 30 weeklies and shoppers.
The group is not affiliated with Cincinnati-based E.W. Scripps Co.
The purchase price will depend on the number of papers that Pulitzer buys. Scripps League retains the option of excluding three smaller dailies and two nondailies.
The price includes about $25 million in working capital. Pulitzer will finance the purchase with a combination of cash and borrowings.
"This acquisition will give us a solid position in a very attractive segment of the publishing industry," Chairman and Chief Executive Michael Pulitzer said. "It meets our key acquisition criteria: strong cash flows, good markets that enhance our geographic diversification and opportunities for future growth."
Scripps League's five largest daily newspapers, which represent about 60% of its revenue and two-thirds of its operating cash flow, are the Daily Herald in Provo, Utah; the Santa Maria Times; the Napa Valley Register; the World in Coos Bay, Ore.; and the Arizona Daily Sun in Flagstaff.
The largest, the Daily Herald, has a circulation of 32,500.
Other dailies in the group are the Garden Island in Lihue, Hawaii; the Daily Chronicle in De Kalb, Ill.; the Haverhill Gazette in Haverhill, Mass.; the Ravalli Republic in Hamilton, Mont.; the Dalles Daily Chronicle in Dalles, Ore.; the Newport Daily Express in Newport, Vt.; and the Daily News in Rhinelander, Wis.