Maine pension fund won't back buy of Blethen chain

P-I presses stop; Times troubles roll on
P-I presses stop; Times troubles roll on

While most eyes were turned toward the Seattle Post-Intelligencer on its last day, two news items surfaced relating to the future of the only daily newspaper left in town, the Seattle Times.

Across the continent in Maine, the Maine Public Employees Retirement System pension fund formally turned down a pitch by a group of would-be investors to back their effort to buy the Seattle Times Co.'ꀙs Blethen Maine chain. The investor group, led by Wilkes-Barre, Pa., newspaper publisher Richard Connor, has been trying since last summer to find someone to put up cash for the deal, which Times officials have said is a must-sell to meet their lenders'ꀙ demands.

But according to a posting today by columnist Al Diamon on Down East magazine'ꀙs Media Mutt blog, the pension fund rejected Connor'ꀙs plea, suggesting he find someone else in the private sector to put up some cash. So far, Connor has raised only $1.1 million of the $10 million his own bankers say he'ꀙll need before they float him any loans for the chain. Connor'ꀙs 30-day letter of intent to buy the chain — his third since last July — expires this week.

Meanwhile the Seattle Times reports today that Times Co. CEO Frank Blethen e-mailed his senior staff and family members last week writing: "This quarter will probably be the all-time bad one in my career/lifetime. As will the two- to three-year [economic downturn] we are in."

According to the Times, Blethen, whose family owns 50.5% of the Times Co.'ꀙs voting stock, said he isn'ꀙt giving up, but can'ꀙt guarantee the company'ꀙs survival either.


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