Over at the Seattle Business Monthly, Bill Richards pens a long piece on the many Blethen family business decisions that he argues accelerated the Seattle Times' decline in a declining industry. (Richards covered the Times/P-I joint operating agreement battle for SW in 2006.) Newspapers are dying, the article concedes, but they die faster when you do things like refuse to negotiate or raise your strike insurance in the face of a possible strike, or buy newspaper chains for sentimental reasons, getting hosed in the process as a wily seller gets you to bid against yourself.
The latter situation allegedly occurred with the paper's purchase of its Maine chain. In 1998, Ryan Blethen--not long out of college--suggested that dad Frank buy the papers, as the Blethen family has significant history in Maine. Gannett got the Times to bid against itself, driving up the price, and to make the purchase in stock, rather than an asset, which was advantageous for Gannett's taxes but disadvantageous for the Times'. These days, Ryan Blethen's about to become editorial page editor, and the Times is looking to unload the Maine papers like so much real estate in Detroit. So far, no takers, though they're getting closer.
Ryan Blethen didn't immediately respond to messages asking for his take on the events.