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Tuesday, August 8, 2000

Star-Bulletin closing

Extension expected
in Star-Bulletin
bid deadline

Potential buyers have
been seeking more time

By Peter Wagner

A potential bidder for the Honolulu Star-Bulletin said today he expects the Aug. 14 bid deadline will be extended.

"I spoke with (newspaper broker) Phil Murray this morning and he said he was going to be requesting a 30-day extension," said Peter McClaran, publisher of the Kauai Business Report.

Federal magistrate Barry Kurren was expected to issue an order early tomorrow modifying the deadline.

McClaran, among several parties who have made their interest in the Star-Bulletin known, planned to submit a bid on the afternoon newspaper by the Monday deadline.

Murray, a broker at New Mexico firm Dirks Van Essen & Murray handling the sale effort, was traveling today and could not be reached.

Another interested party, Windward auto dealer Mike McKenna, said today a 30-day extension would be of little help in preparing his bid.

"Thirty days is not enough," said McKenna, who made his request for a bidding extension last week. "We asked for until the end of October."

McKenna said an additional 30 days to prepare a bid is not enough because he wants a certified public accountant to review the books of the Star-Bulletin and its joint operating partner, the Honolulu Advertiser, owned by Gannett Pacific Corp.

"Without time and information, we're just guessing," said McKenna. "I'm going to get really tired of the whole thing . . . This is ridiculous."

McKenna, a former newspaper owner, is among several parties who have complained in the past about short deadlines and skimpy financial information provided by the newspaper's sellers during the sales process.

"I contend they don't want to sell the newspaper," he said.

Murray has defended the sales process and last week said the sellers were willing to work with potential bidders needing more time.

According to McClaran, Murray was contacted by at least three parties seeking more time to put together bids on the newspaper. He said that his group was not one of those asking for an extension. McClaran said the extension notices were to have gone out to potential bidders as early as today.

Kurren, who is overseeing the sales effort, was in conference with attorneys involved in the Star-Bulletin sale this morning.

The Star-Bulletin has been up for sale since April 24, which put on hold an antitrust lawsuit brought by the state Attorney General late last year alleging Star-Bulletin owner Liberty Newspapers and Gannett conspired to create a monopoly for the Advertiser.

Gannett in 1993 sold the Star-Bulletin to Liberty under terms including a 20-year joint operating agreement in which business functions are shared but the newsrooms of the two papers are kept separate. Last September, executives of both companies announced that Gannett would pay $26.5 million to Liberty in return for ending the JOA and closing the Star-Bulletin.

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