Pioneer Press Could Be Sold, But As Part Of Package
The St. Paul Pioneer Press is not being considered for sale individually. Instead, it would be grouped with several other newspapers as part of a “regional cluster” in any deal, a spokesman at its parent company told Twin Cities Business on Friday.
Digital First Media (DFM), which owns the Pioneer Press, announced plans Friday to explore “strategic alternatives.”
The company’s chief executive disclosed in a memo to employees that DFM is working with investment bank UBS to assess its alternatives.
“It could mean we decide to sell the company,” CEO John Paton said in the memo to employees. “Or sell parts of it. Or expand it. Or stay the course.”
Paton characterized the news information industry as “undergoing a period of seismic change, defined by the need to consolidate to rapidly compete in a digital world,” according to a statement released to the news media.
The acknowledgement of a potential sale arrived at the end of a week that began with newspaper unions at the Pioneer Press and some other DFM newspapers purchasing ads to solicit buyers. The Pioneer Press’ ad appeared in the Star Tribune on Monday. A Newspaper Guild spokesman said the St. Paul newspaper’s publisher refused to print the ad in his own publication.
DFM, whose assets include 76 daily newspapers, is owned by New York-based hedge fund, Alden Global Capital. Alden emerged as a majority shareholder of the Pioneer Press after the newspaper emerged from bankruptcy in 2010.
The Pioneer Press’ guild members prefer a local buyer, Dave Orrick, union spokesman and an outdoors writer at the paper, said Friday. Orrick said the newspaper is still viable as a business and supported by readers and advertisers in the east metro area, but newsroom staff has dropped to 92 people in July after reaching a high of 246 in 2001.
When Minnesota businessman Glen Taylor finalized his purchase of the Minneapolis-based Star Tribune in late June, he also expressed interest in buying the Pioneer Press if it becomes available. In an interview with the Star Tribune, Taylor said he had no “reason to believe what that time table might be.”
Orrick said the guild hopes a local buyer “with civic pride” will emerge to scoop up his newspaper. When asked about reactions to Monday’s ad, Orrick did not cite specifics. However, he added: “We’ve been very encouraged by the response.”