Times Co. Finally Unloads Maine Papers

As reported, Seattle Times Co. has been in final negotiations for a sale of its Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram properties to a private consortium called MaineToday Media Inc. The papers were put on the block some 15 months ago. Now The Kennebec Journal (of Maine) confirms the fire-sale transaction has gone through (terms were not disclosed). The Blethen family-controlled Times Co. bought the papers in 1998, pre-Internet, for a price rumored to be in the neighborhood of $200 million (mostly borrowed). How much of that--regardless of annual operating losses--did the Blethens recover? Newspaper analyst John Morton, in appraising the value of The Boston Globe, thought its worth had declined 75 percent since 1993 (when The New York Times bought it for $1.1 billion). So, by that math, even if the Blethens only salvaged around $50 million, that's money they desperately need to pay off creditors and help their balance sheet here in Seattle. Now if only some developer would make an offer on those Fairview parking lots and nearby parcels. But, given the state of the local real estate market, that may take even longer than the Maine sale.

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