Buying newspapers back in Maine, land of his forbears, will go down in history as being one of Frank Blethen's worst investments. He's been trying to sell for over a year, at a time when no one's buying newspapers and many are in bankruptcy. But his Portland Press Heraldreports that its unions--finger to the breeze, like those in Seattle--are likely willing to make concessions necessary for a sale to an in-state investor. Union members will be voting on a 10 percent pay cut, plus other concessions, just like Seattle Timesworkers voted back in April
Blethen bought three Maine papers in 1998, at the very top of the pre-Internet, pre-Craigslist market. He's been trying to sell since last year, even before things got really dire for The Seattle Times financially (and the rest of the industry at large). No purchase price is mentioned by the Portland Press Herald, though it mentions: "employees would be part of an employee stock ownership plan, or ESOP, that would give them a 15 percent stake in the new company." (That sort of deal worked out horribly for Tribune, owner of The Chicago Tribune and Los Angeles Times.) But the Boston Phoenixreported three years ago that Blethen likely paid some $200 million for his three papers. Today, they're likely worth a fraction, a very small fraction, of Blethen's original investment. But having outlasted Hearst to kill the printed Post-Intelligencer, recouping even a few million would help pay off creditors and gain The Seattle Times some breathing room.