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Thomson Selling 3 Local Papers to Dean Singleton

Media: Terms for West Covina, Pasadena, Whittier publications aren't disclosed. Deal would include 10 others.

September 21, 1996|PATRICK LEE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Toronto-based Thomson Corp. said Friday that it is selling the San Gabriel Valley Tribune, the Pasadena Star-News and a sister daily paper in Whittier to Denver media mogul William Dean Singleton--six years after Singleton sold the Star-News to Thomson.

The 57,500-circulation Tribune, based in West Covina, the 42,500-circulation Star-News and the 19,000-circulation Whittier Daily News are to be sold to Singleton's Denver-based MediaNews Group, which also owns the Denver Post.

To be included in the sale are 10 Southern California community newspapers published under the Thomson LA News Group.

Terms of the sale, which is subject to regulatory approvals, were not disclosed; the sale is expected to be completed in the next two months.

In 1990, Singleton sold his interest in the Star-News to Thomson in a deal estimated at about $50 million.

Friday's deals are part of Thomson's announcement that it would put up for sale 29 newspapers in Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Massachusetts, Michigan, Oklahoma, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin.

Thomson also sold to Singleton the Times-Standard of Eureka, Calif., and the Evening Sun of Hanover, Pa. After the acquisitions, MediaNews will own 115 newspapers.

At the Star-News, the deal has been anticipated for months, mostly with apprehension by employees who fear Singleton's reputation for buying distressed newspapers and cutting costs drastically to improve profitability.

"A lot of us are glad to see Thomson go, but at the same time we're concerned about the future under Singleton," said one Thomson reporter who asked not to be identified. "We've heard he has come into newspapers and rehired everyone at half the salary."

But Singleton, touring the Tribune's West Covina offices Friday, denied any such plans and said there would be no dramatic changes. "These are very solid suburban daily newspapers," he said. "Clearly, everybody operates newspapers a little differently, so we'll probably bring our spin to it, but they're operated pretty well now."

The three San Gabriel Valley papers, which employ a total of about 300 workers, are believed to be profitable.

It's the second time that Singleton finds himself at the helm of the 110-year-old Pasadena Star-News. In 1989, Singleton purchased the Star-News and a chain of smaller newspapers from Knight-Ridder for about $55 million.

Subsequently, many of the Star-News' editorial and administrative operations were merged with the Tribune and the Whittier paper, owned by Thomson, under a common management company.

A little more than a year later, Singleton sold a majority interest in the Star-News to Thomson, and by 1992, Singleton had divested himself of all shares.

Last week, Thomson sold the 1926-vintage Star-News building on Pasadena's Colorado Boulevard--which the paper vacated last year for other quarters--for an undisclosed amount to a Los Angeles partnership for development as retail and office space. The building was listed at $2.5 million.

Friday's deals would remove Thomson from the Southern California newspaper market entirely.

Thomson's announcement represents the last block of properties being sold as part of the Canadian company's restructuring to focus more on marketing and communications in selected regional markets, said Dick Harrington, president and chief executive of Thomson's newspaper subsidiary, based in Stamford, Conn.

In 1995, Thomson sold 25 small U.S. newspapers and 21 Canadian papers. It sold an additional 12 Canadian papers this year, Harrington said. Thomson operates 97 newspapers and other publications with more than $900 million in U.S. revenues, he added.

* Times correspondent Richard Winton contributed to this report.

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