- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 7, 2006

AKRON, Ohio (AP) — McClatchy Co. said yesterday it has reached agreements to sell five of the six remaining Knight Ridder newspapers it plans to divest for about $450 million.

Together with two other transactions announced previously, McClatchy has now made deals to sell 11 of the 12 Knight Ridder papers it doesn’t plan to keep. McClatchy said the sales have generated just over $2 billion in proceeds, which it plans to use to reduce some of the debt it is taking on to acquire Knight Ridder.

The deals announced yesterday involved five newspapers: the Akron Beacon Journal in Ohio; Duluth News Tribune in Minnesota; Grand Forks Herald in North Dakota; the Fort Wayne News-Sentinel in Indiana and the American News in Aberdeen, S.D.

The Akron paper was the largest of the former Knight Ridder papers remaining for sale. It was bought by Sound Publishing Holdings Inc., a subsidiary of Black Press Ltd., a private company based in Victoria, British Columbia.

McClatchy said it sold the News-Sentinel to Ogden Newspapers; the Duluth News Tribune and the Grand Forks Herald to Forum Communications Co.; and the (Aberdeen) American News to Schurz Communications Inc. Separate financial terms were not disclosed for the deals.

That leaves the Times Leader of Wilkes-Barre, Pa., remaining to be sold. McClatchy has already announced the sale of six other larger newspapers owned by Knight Ridder. Privately held MediaNews Group Inc. bought four newspapers, and a local investor bought the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Philadelphia Daily News.

McClatchy said in March that it planned to buy Knight Ridder for $4.5 billion in cash and stock plus the assumption of about $2 billion in debt, but said it planned to keep only 20 of Knight Ridder’s 32 newspapers, selling the other 12. Most didn’t fit McClatchy’s criteria of being located in growing markets.

McClatchy also sold the St. Paul Pioneer Press in Minnesota, where it would have faced antitrust concerns because of its ownership of the Star Tribune in neighboring Minneapolis.

All of the newspapers sold so far were bought by private companies, which don’t have to answer to Wall Street. Newspaper stocks have come under pressure from investors recently because of worries over circulation declines and the migration of readers and ad dollars to the Internet.

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