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Tuesday, February 15, 2000

Star-Bulletin closing after 117 years

Buyers emerge
for SF Examiner

Many are watching the case for
clues on the fate of the Star-Bulletin

Associated Press


SAN FRANCISCO -- Several possible buyers for the San Francisco Examiner emerged Tuesday, and the Hearst Corp. said it is evaluating the offers.

“Hearst has recieved several indications of interest,” the company said in a brief statement from New York.

“We are presently engaged in the process of reviewing and evaluating proposals and have no official announcement at this time,” the company said. A spokeswoman declined to elaborate.

The staffs of the city’s two daily newspapers were anxiously awaiting word on Hearst’s efforts to find a buyer by its self-imposed deadline Tuesday.

Hearst said it would close the flagship paper of its media empire if a buyer wasn’t found by the end of the day. It said the remnants of the afternoon Examiner would be merged with the newspaper’s morning rival, the San Francisco Chronicle, which Hearst is buying.

The Examiner, owned by the Hearst family since 1880, has been up for sale since August with no apparent bidders.

Hearst’s $660 million purchase of the Chronicle and its efforts to dissolve the papers’ 1965 Joint Operating Agreement have been held up pending a Justice Department investigation into complaints that Hearst will have a monopoly in the city.

Hearst sweetened the terms in January to address those concerns, and then set a deadline for finding a buyer. If no one emerged, it could then claim the Examiner is a failing enterprise, merge the dailies and dissolve the agreement, which guarantees each paper 50 percent of the profits.

The Justice Department, which must approve of the dissolution of the joint operating agreement, has been closely watching the case. Late last year a federal court blocked plans to end a similar joint agreement in Honolulu by shutting down the Honolulu Star-Bulletin. A civil suit over those plans is scheduled for trial in Honolulu in September.

Hearst executives weren’t saying Tuesday whether a buyer had been found. By midday, even Examiner Publisher Tim White complained of being stonewalled.

It is “very frustrating,” White told KTVU-TV. “I’m bugging them but I’m getting nothing. ... We’re very frustrated not knowing about our future.”

Similar tensions were being felt by the staffs of both papers, said Doug Cuthbertson, executive officer of the Northern California Media Workers Guild. There are 377 guild members at the Chronicle, 203 at the Examiner and 543 at the agency that runs both papers’ business operations. In all, the papers have 2,600 employees, 580 of them in editorial jobs.

The papers share business operations but maintain separate newsroom staffs. The Examiner’s weekday circulation is about 107,000, the Chronicle’s, 457,000.

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