Richard Connor says he and HM Capital, a private equity firm in Dallas, have finally raised the cash necessary to close a deal announced last year — purchase of Blethen Maine Newspapers from the struggling Seattle Times Co. The price has not been disclosed, but unloading the three dailies and other properties in the other corner of the country is hugely important for the survival of The Seattle Times and its smaller siblings in Washington.
The papers to be sold are the Portland Press Herald and Maine Sunday Telegram, the Kennebec Journal in Augusta, the Morning Sentinel in Waterville, plus a weekly and a Web portal, MaineToday.com. The union representing many workers at all three papers is to vote on concessions this week, including a 10 percent wage cut, according to the Press Herald.
The Times Co., controlled by the Seattle-area Blethen family for 113 years, still owes millions of dollars on the loan it got to buy the Maine papers in the first place 10 years ago and needs to unload them because it can't service the debt. The company also has since late last year been trying to sell real estate in Seattle's South Lake Union neighborhood.
The Seattle paper's prospects were greatly improved when Hearst decided to cease printing the Seattle Post-Intelligencer in April and end the papers' joint operating agreement. In Washington, the Seattle Times Co. also owns the Yakima Herald-Republic, the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin, plus several weeklies, NWsource.com, real estate, and Rotary Offset Press in Kent.