- Associated Press - Monday, May 16, 2016

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - The pending sale of The Salt Lake Tribune to a member of the Huntsman family won’t mean the end of the newspaper’s role as an important independent voice in the state, said patriarch Jon Huntsman Sr. in the family’s first interview since the deal was announced last month.

The wealthy industrialist said his son, Paul Huntsman, may join the editorial board when he becomes owner but he doesn’t plan any to make any drastic changes or meddle with day-to-day newsroom decisions. Paul Huntsman has great confidence in Tribune editor and publisher Terry Orme, Huntsman Sr. told The Salt Lake Tribune (https://bit.ly/1UZRgaY).

“He’s going to listen carefully and let the people who are doing a great job at The Tribune keep doing it,” Huntsman said of his son. “He isn’t a man to come in and make changes or do anything like that. If it isn’t broken, you don’t fix it.”

The announcement that Paul Huntsman had reached an agreement to buy the newspaper was widely viewed a positive development. The Tribune was struggling after a recently revised joint operating agreement with the Deseret News cut its share of profits nearly in half in exchange for an undisclosed, one-time lump sum to the company that runs the Tribune, Digital First Media.

But it also raised concerns about whether the family would influence the paper’s coverage or curtail its ability to be a unique and independent voice in a state where more than half of residents and most lawmakers are Mormon.

The Huntsmans, who are predominantly Mormon, are one of the most influential families in Utah. They run a major cancer research center and the family name adorns university arenas and college programs.

Huntsman Sr. said the family is a diverse clan with different opinions on religion and politics even though many members of the family are Republican, including a former Utah governor Jon Huntsman Jr. Politics is a lower priority for the family behind cancer research and helping with humanitarian issues for underserved populations in Utah and surrounding states, he said.

“We’re really a mixed bag,” he said. “It’s just a nice family to have associated with The Tribune, which has to appeal to everybody and every religion and every ethnic group.”

Paul Huntsman isn’t talking publicly until the deal is finalized. But during an impromptu visit to the newsroom last month, he said he had no interest in directing news coverage, but would focus on “building up the business.”

Huntsman Sr., 78, granted the Tribune an interview to provide a sense for how his son plans to run the newspaper. He also provided more details into yearslong negotiations that led to the deal.

He said he and Dean Singleton, the former owner of MediaNews Group that owned the Tribune and Denver Post, started negotiations to buy the Tribune four years ago. They offered $15 million at one point, but were turned down, he said.

The price Paul Huntsman is set to pay for the paper has not been disclosed.

Paul Huntsman entered into negotiations about two years ago, shortly after Singleton dropped out to due health concerns, said Huntsman Sr.

“We’re excited for the second coming of The Salt Lake Tribune,” he said. “We’re enthused to do everything we can as a family to make it come back and to expand circulation.”


Information from: The Salt Lake Tribune, https://www.sltrib.com

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