Black bids for Canadian newspapers


POSTED: Friday, March 05, 2010

While some media companies are narrowing their exposure to newspapers, Honolulu Star-Bulletin majority owner David Black is demonstrating his continued bullishness on print media with a bid to buy Canwest LP's chain of daily newspapers.

If Black's bid to buy Canwest's newspapers is successful, it would make him the largest newspaper magnate in Canada. Most of Black's newspapers are small weeklies in western Canada. In addition to the Star-Bulletin, Black's U.S. newspapers include the Ohio-based Akron Beacon Journal.

About half a dozen other bidders are reportedly vying with Black to acquire the print assets of Canada's largest media company, which includes the National Post, the Ottawa Post and the Montreal Gazette. Bidding for Canwest, which concluded yesterday, came in the midst of an announcement that Leonard Asper, Canwest Global Communications Corp.'s chief executive officer, has resigned to pursue other interests. Canwest's newspaper and online publishing groups have been involved in a court-ordered financial restructuring since January.

Beverly Hills, Calif.-based Platinum Equity LLC has been touted as the most probable backer of Black's bid, according to Toronto-based Globe and Mail. The private equity firm recruited Black as a consultant during its recent purchase of the San Diego Union-Tribune, and he continues to work with Platinum Equity today.

This latest potential deal comes on the heels of an announcement Feb. 25 that Oahu Publications Inc., of which Black is the majority owner, had reached a deal to purchase its rival, The Honolulu Advertiser, from Gannett Co. for an undisclosed amount. The sale, which is subject to regulatory and other approvals, is slated to close in the second quarter of 2010. The state Justice Department has asked Black to put the Honolulu Star-Bulletin up for sale to see whether a viable buyer emerges; however, if one is not forthcoming, he plans to merge the longtime rivals into a newspaper with a new name.

Since the economy went south, newspaper mergers and acquisitions have become an emerging trend. In recent years, Denver, Seattle and Tucson, Ariz., have all become one-newspaper towns.