N.Y. Times Co. to Buy Paper in Santa Barbara

Times Staff Writer

New York Times Co. said Friday that it has agreed to buy the Santa Barbara News-Press, an afternoon daily founded in 1855. Terms were not disclosed.

The News-Press is owned by Independent Publications of Philadelphia, a newspaper group that also owns daily papers in New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

The News-Press has a weekday circulation of 51,000, according to figures as of June 16, and Sunday circulation of 57,000.

News-Press employees said they had suspected the paper was for sale for months and had seen executives touring the plant from the Boston Globe, Dow Jones & Co. and Gannett Co.

"They were kicking the tires, seeing what kind of shape we were in," political reporter Jerry Rankin said.

While the News-Press had attracted potential suitors for years, its attractiveness may have increased in the last year since the arrival of new Editor and Publisher B. Dale Davis. Under Davis, the paper's circulation had increased 9.5%, ad linage 7% and revenue 24%.

Davis, a former executive with the defunct Philadelphia Bulletin, said Friday that he intends to stay with the News-Press under New York Times ownership and "looked forward to being here for many years." He said the paper is profitable, but he declined to give a specific figure.

Although New York Times Co. did not comment on its plans for the newspaper Friday, another possible reason for its interest was that it could print its national edition for Southern California at the Santa Barbara plant. It currently prints the edition at the Daily Breeze in Torrance.

Davis said the News-Press' presses, although built in the 1960s, could accommodate the New York Times. Because the Santa Barbara paper is printed in the afternoon, the presses would be available for overnight printing of the morning New York Times.

The sale ends a longstanding tradition of private family ownership at the News-Press. The paper was published by T. M. Storke from 1901 until 1964, when it was sold to Robert McLean, owner of the Philadelphia Bulletin, Independent Publications and president of the Associated Press from 1938 to 1957.

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