Monday, May 22, 2006

Tierney? To the Rescue?!

After being put on the block first by Knight-Ridder -- and then again by McClatchy -- it seems the Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News are being bought by... locals.

In a related development, the temperature in hell is rapidly dropping.

The all-Philly bid, led by McMansion magnate Bruce Toll and advertising/PR guru Brian Tierney, advised by a cast of (very influential/monied) thousands, is within range of returning the two papers -- run by the Knight-Ridder behemoth since 1971 -- to hometown ownership at a cost somewhere in the $500 mil range.

The presence of Tierney is of particular note given: 1. his heavy involvement with Republican causes, 2. his heavy involvement with Catholic causes (he was made a Knight of St Gregory the Great in 1998) and 3. his prior role as PR consultant/DEFCON1 spokesman for the archdiocese here.

The best news of all, however, is that God's favorite paper -- the Daily News -- will be spared.
The potential deal would inaugurate a new era in Philadelphia journalism and would be very good news for the Daily News in particular, because Tierney has pledged not to close the People Paper and to instead try to use his local connections and marketing savvy to grow the newspaper and its advertising. There have been five other bidders for the Philadelphia newspapers, and at least one had threatened deep cuts to reporting staffs.

People familiar with the negotiations did caution that while an end to the saga -- which began when the entire Knight Ridder chain was put up for sale last fall -- appears to be finally at hand, the deal is not final.

“Until I see something on the record, I assume it’s not a completely final deal,” said Henry Holcomb, an Inquirer reporter who is president of the local chapter of the Newspaper Guild, the union that represents newsroom employees. The Guild had partnered with another bidder, the “worker friendly” Yucaipa Cos., and Holcomb said Yucaipa has not contacted union leaders to report that it’s out of the running.

If Tierney’s Philadelphia Media Holdings is indeed successful, it would mean the newspapers will be in the hands of private owners as opposed to a public company such as Knight Ridder or McClatchy, which faces constant pressure to meet the quarterly profit demands of Wall Street. Local ownership would also buck the trend over the last half-century toward consolidation of the American media, including newspapers, in the hands of a shrinking number of conglomerates.
More as it happens.