New York Times Co. signed an agreement Thursday to buy the Santa Rosa Press Democrat, its first purchase of a newspaper west of Louisana.
The Press Democrat is the 73,000-circulation morning daily serving the growing Sonoma County seat. The paper also circulates to parts of Mendocino, Lake and Napa counties.
The agreement in principle with the family-owned Press Democrat Publishing Co. also includes the semi-weekly Healdsburg Tribune, serving the town 16 miles north.
No financial details were released. The deal is expected to become final in a few months.
Bruce Thorp, a newspaper-industry analyst with the Washington brokerage firm of Lynch, Jones & Ryan, said the New York Times has prospered from the 19 daily and eight weekly papers it owns outside Manhattan, usually buying papers in areas about to start growing rapidly and infusing them with capital and sometimes new personnel. Thorp said the Santa Rosa paper fits this profile.
The Times often invests heavily in new equipment and facilities at its new acquisitions, and Times Vice Chairman Sydney Gruson said in announcing the purchase that "we have plans for a major expansion of the (Santa Rosa) newspaper facility."
All but one of the Times' papers, however, are located in the Southeast, with Louisana being the westernmost.
Thorp speculated that the Times may plan to use the Santa Rosa plant to print its national edition for the West Coast, currently printed in Torrance and Walnut Creek. New York Times spokesman Elliott Sanger Jr. said he could not discuss that possibility.