Friday, October 15, 1999

Maui News seeks buyer

Maui Publishing Co. has hired
a media broker to explore
a possible sale

By Rick Daysog


The owner of the Maui News said today it is considering selling the 99-year-old afternoon daily, in the latest shake-up for Hawaii's newspaper industry.

Maui Publishing Co. said it has hired Santa Fe, N.M.-based media broker Dirks, Van Essen & Associates to explore the possible sale of the 17,000-circulation newspaper, Hawaii's only locally owned daily.

Publisher Richard Cameron today informed the Maui News' 120 employees of the possible sale but stressed that the company has not made a final decision to sell.

Cameron said he is holding discussions with newspaper companies "whose corporate strategies and commitment to newspapers would be attractive" to the company. He declined to name the companies.

"Should we move ahead, our goal is to find a successor company that will continue to provide quality service to our readers, advertisers, and the Maui community and be in the best interests of the shareholders and the employees as well," Cameron said.

Today's announcement comes a month after Liberty Newspapers Limited Partnership said that it was closing the Honolulu Star-Bulletin on Oct. 30, a move that would leave Gannett Co.'s Honolulu Advertiser as the only daily newspaper on Oahu. A federal judge on Wednesday put a temporary halt to the closing after the state attorney general's office sued to block the Star-Bulletin's shutdown.

Media brokers say that Virginia-based Gannett could be a likely bidder for the Maui News given that the Advertiser is a competitor. A spokeswoman for Gannett did not return calls.

Tom Bolitho, president of Ada, Okla.-based Bolitho Media Service, said the Maui News will likely fetch a premium given the paper's market penetration and Maui's demographics. Bolitho said the Maui News could sell for as much as $20 million. Cameron said today's announcement is unrelated to the decision to close the Star-Bulletin.

Company sources said the Maui News' board of directors decided several months ago to explore selling the newspaper. They noted that the newspaper has been only slightly profitable, despite circulation gains over the past year.

While the Maui economy has been rebounding, advertising revenue growth has been sluggish, the sources said.

The Maui News was founded in February 1900 by Judge G.B. Robertson as a six-column, four-page edition that carried reprinted articles from Honolulu and Hilo newspapers.

In 1940, the paper was purchased by J. Walter Cameron, whose descendants continue to control the company through the J. Walter Cameron Trust. The trust also is a large shareholder in Maui Land & Pineapple Co.

Maui News Online

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