Singleton to Pay $55 Million for the Pasadena Star-News

Times Staff Writer

The Knight-Ridder newspaper chain said Wednesday that it has agreed to sell the Pasadena Star-News and Foothill Intercity Newspapers to a company formed by Texas newspaper executive William Dean Singleton for about $55 million in cash.

The sale of the 102-year-old Star-News and the Foothill group--which includes the Arcadia Tribune, the Duartean, the Monrovia News Post and the Temple City Times--is scheduled to be completed in two months. The Star-News has a daily circulation of about 39,000 and the twice-weekly Foothill papers have a combined circulation of about 24,000.

The deal is the latest in a series of acquisitions by Singleton, chief executive of Houston-based MediaNews Group, the parent company of the Houston Post, Denver Post and 19 other daily newspapers in nine states.

Singleton, who spoke to the Star-News' staff Wednesday morning, indicated that he would buy the newspaper a new computer system, according to Publisher William Applebee. Applebee said no layoffs are expected as a result of the acquisition.

"The reaction around the building is very positive," Applebee said. "There was some anxiety over uncertainties before. . . . I don't see any change coming, except for an expansion in efforts to boost circulation."

Star-News Executive Editor Patricia Burnett, also upbeat, said Singleton "certainly knows competitive markets, and that's what we've got here. He has a reputation for energy and enthusiasm in competitive markets across the country."

Some Star-News staff members were more cautious about the deal.

"The chief concern," said Star-News reporter John Flek, "is whether the new owner will continue to try to deliver a quality news product. What he (Singleton) said today sounded good. We'll see."

Singleton's MediaNews Group operates more than 50 daily, weekly and semi-weekly publications. In 1986, he bought the Dallas Times Herald from Times Mirror Co., publisher of the Los Angeles Times, but sold the Texas paper to a longtime associate in 1988. Singleton has formed Pasadena Newspapers Inc. to run his latest acquisitions.

Wednesday's agreement ends speculation that began in January when Miami-based Knight-Ridder placed the Star-News and the Gary (Indiana) Post-Tribune on the block. Knight-Ridder is currently in negotiations with possible buyers of the Post-Tribune, according to Lee Ann Schlatter, a spokeswoman for the company. A Post-Tribune employee group is among those interested, she said.

Knight-Ridder decided to sell the Star-News and its Foothill subsidiary partly to help offset the cost of acquiring Dialog Information Services, an electronic database service that it bought from Lockheed Corp. last August for $353 million. The Star-News and Foothill operations are profitable, according to Schlatter.

"The (Star-News) papers didn't fit into our long-term plans because the potential for profit growth isn't as great as it is in some of our other markets," Schlatter said.

Knight-Ridder bought the Star-News in 1956. The paper gained national attention in 1982 when it tried to produce a daily sports paper called All Sports, but the venture died less than a year later. That same year, the Star-News ceased publishing its afternoon edition.

Knight-Ridder owns 30 daily newspapers and has major investments in business information services, cable television systems and broadcast TV. The company owns the Long Beach Press-Telegram and the San Jose Mercury News.

In separate deals with other companies, Knight-Ridder has agreed to sell all eight of its broadcast stations for a total of more than $400 million, Schlatter said.

Staff writer Siok-Hian Tay Kelley contributed to this story.

FOR THE RECORD Los Angeles Times Saturday April 22, 1989 Home Edition Business Part 4 Page 2 Column 2 Financial Desk 1 inches; 19 words Type of Material: Correction In a story in Thursday's Business section on the sale of the Pasadena Star-News, the name of Star-News reporter John Fleck was misspelled.
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