The owners of the Orange Coast Daily Pilot are negotiating to sell the daily newspaper to former Chicago Sun-Times publisher Robert E. Page, who is reportedly interested in building a string of community newspapers in Southern California.
Kirk Cheyfitz, president of the publishing division of Adams Communications Corp., which purchased the Pilot last year from Ingersoll Publications Co., confirmed that the company was negotiating the paper's sale.
"We have been having some talks with Bob Page, and we might be able to conclude a transaction in the near future," he said.
Cheyfitz emphasized that a sale was not yet certain. He said that no discussions had taken place with any other potential buyer although Adams had received no less than a dozen calls from people wanting to buy The Pilot.
A source who asked not to be identified said Page was seeking to acquire the Glendale News-Press, which is owned by game-show impresario Mark Goodson and managed by Ingersoll under a contract whose termination was announced Oct. 24. News-Press Publisher Judy Kendall declined all comment on the report.
Goodson's newspaper operations reportedly are strapped for cash after purchasing the Morristown Daily Record in New Jersey two years ago for $155 million. Goodson announced on Oct. 24 that he was selling the New Haven Register and terminating the long-standing agreement with Ingersoll to manage his newspapers.
Page, who heads a Boston-based company called Page Media, formerly was publisher of the Boston Herald and the Chicago Sun-Times. In 1986 he led a management buyout of the Chicago paper from its former owner Rupert Murdoch. Page could not be reached for comment.
The Orange Coast Daily Pilot, which primarily serves the Costa Mesa-Newport Beach area, has struggled with declining circulation and advertising revenues over the past decade. But Cheyfitz said a turnaround had begun since Adams purchased the paper.
Circulation, which had dropped to 20,000 last year from 40,000 in 1982, has rebounded by about 3,000, Cheyfitz said. Display advertising and classified ad revenues also were up, Cheyfitz said, but he could not provide figures.
The Pilot, which until 1983 was owned by Times Mirror Co., publisher of The Times, switched to being a morning publication earlier this year. Cheyfitz said Adams was "really happy with the progress" that had been made since the acquisition. He noted that the weekly community newspaper operations that were purchased with The Pilot--the Huntington Beach Independent and the Fountain Valley Independent--also were doing very well.
Adams has launched new "Independent" weeklies in Newport Beach and Costa Mesa and won its battle with Baker Communications, which recently closed the weekly Newport Beach Ensign.
Adams Communications, founded by soft-drink entrepreneur Stephen Adams in 1982, is based in the Minneapolis suburb of Wayzata and has holdings in radio, television, magazines and outdoor advertising in addition to newspapers.
When the Pilot was sold to Adams last year, it reportedly was losing money, and the purchase price was not disclosed. Cheyfitz said that if the sale to Page was completed, it would be for significantly more than the price Adams had paid.
Rosemary Churchman, publisher of The Pilot, could not be reached for comment.