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Knight Ridder Papers Draw at Least 3 Bids

Times Staff Writers

McClatchy Co.'s planned sale of a dozen Knight Ridder Inc. newspapers drew bids from at least three potential buyers Tuesday -- including an offer for all 12 from Los Angeles investment firm Yucaipa Cos.

Yucaipa, controlled by billionaire Ron Burkle, is allied with the Newspaper Guild-Communications Workers of America, the union that represents employees at eight of the papers. Robert Hall, an advisor to Yucaipa and the union, described the bid as “very competitive and aggressive.”

Denver-based MediaNews Group Inc., which owns the Denver Post and Daily News in Los Angeles, bid for at least some of the papers, people involved in the process said. In addition, wire services reported that a group led by Bruce Toll, vice chairman of home builder Toll Bros. Inc., bid for the two Philadelphia papers -- the Inquirer and Daily News.

Gannett Co., owner of USA Today and considered a potential bidder, apparently didn’t submit an offer, the people said.

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The amounts of the bids couldn’t be determined. All told, the 12 papers are expected to fetch more than $1 billion.

MediaNews Group and Gannett declined to comment, as did McClatchy Chief Executive Gary Pruitt. Toll couldn’t be reached.

McClatchy is selling the papers -- which include the San Jose Mercury News, the Monterey County Herald and the Contra Costa Times -- as part of its $4.5-billion purchase of San Jose-based Knight Ridder.

Although some bidders came forward Tuesday, executives at Sacramento-based McClatchy told other interested parties that they could still make an offer later.

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The newspaper union complained last week that potential buyers who weren’t involved in the earlier bidding for all of Knight Ridder were being denied access to internal financial data needed to put together detailed bids. Unless MediaNews Group, led by William Dean Singleton, buys all 12 papers, McClatchy is expected to open the books to other bidders soon.

“It’s in McClatchy’s interest to have as many people looking at these things as possible,” industry analyst John Morton said.

Singleton, whose company owns several Bay Area papers, has toured the Inquirer and the Mercury News, and is thought to be interested in the Contra Costa Times.

Hall said Yucaipa would update its offer, which now includes a range of possible dollar amounts, if McClatchy provided more detailed financial information on the newspapers.

Local groups in Monterey, Calif., Grand Forks, N.D., and other cities where McClatchy is selling papers may still come forward.

Participants said the bidding process could take two months.

McClatchy shares fell $1.29 to $47.96.


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