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Friday, October 27, 2000

Star-Bulletin closing

Black optimistic
about new deadline

The parties now have until
Nov. 6 to negotiate the sale
of the Star-Bulletin

By Rick Daysog

A federal judge has extended the deadline for the court-supervised sale of the Honolulu Star-Bulletin to Nov. 6.

Federal Magistrate Barry Kurren had scheduled a hearing today to confirm or terminate Canadian publisher David Black's proposed purchase of the 118-year-old daily. But yesterday the judge postponed the hearing and set the new date to give the parties more time to negotiate a final agreement.

Black, president of Victoria, B.C.-based Black Press Ltd., said he is hopeful a deal can be struck by the new deadline.

"The points at issue are not large," Black said yesterday. "They shouldn't prevent a deal."

One key issue that remains is access to the Star-Bulletin's supply of newsprint.

Black has said that the Honolulu Advertiser's owner Gannett Co., which conducts the printing and business functions of the Advertiser and Star-Bulletin under a joint operating agreement, has refused to agree to let him buy the afternoon paper's newsprint allocation.

Black, who has offered to purchase the newsprint at market costs, said he's been unable to secure an adequate supply of newsprint to operate the 63,500-circulation Star-Bulletin. Lack of newsprint could thwart his plans to buy the paper.

Mike Fisch, the Advertiser's president and publisher, could not be reached for immediate comment. But Gannett has said that despite the tight market, Black could buy newsprint elsewhere.

The Arlington, Va.-based newspaper chain contends that Black is seeking a subsidy by demanding that Gannett use its purchasing power to obtain newsprint at prices more favorable than Black can negotiate on his own.

Black, whose company owns 80 community newspapers in western Canada and Washington state, has said he plans to print the Star-Bulletin at RFD Publications in Kaneohe, where the free weekly newspaper Midweek is published.

Last month, Kurren named Black as the sole qualified bidder for the Star-Bulletin. The decision came after Star-Bulletin owner Liberty Newspapers Limited Partnership of Florida put the newspaper for sale in April to postpone antitrust lawsuits by the attorney general's office and a local community group, Save Our Star-Bulletin. The state and SOS had sued to block Liberty's plans to close the Star-Bulletin and terminate the joint operating agreement in exchange for a $26.5 million payment.

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