Want to buy a newspaper company? No? You’re in good company.
The Chicago Sun-Times is the kind of trophy that once appealed to deep-pocketed buyers. It has a big audience in a big market, a storied name, and stars like Roger Ebert and Robert Novak. The Sun-Times Media Group, owner of the flagship paper and dozens of smaller suburban papers, said in February that it wanted to sell assets or maybe the entire company. The chief executive, Cyrus Freidheim Jr., said May 8 that “a large number of parties” had asked to see the books, and that the company expected to field offers by the end of that month.
Since then, silence.
This is no isolated case. While all publicly traded newspaper companies have seen their share prices fall in the last year — drops of 50 to 70 percent are commonplace — some have tumbled so far that any number of bargain hunters could snap up a controlling interest, despite the credit squeeze. But they haven’t…
“The story has changed fundamentally,” said Ken Doctor, a newspaper analyst with Outsell, a research firm. “A year ago, the conventional wisdom was, ‘Yep, there are problems out there, but there’s still significant value.’ Now, it’s ‘Run away.’ “
John has focused on the incompetence of beancounters making the decisions which rule at newspapers in trouble: “Losing money? Let’s fire the writers and editors who bring consumers to the paper!” I think he’s got it right.