Black Press buys King County Journal

by DAN RICHMAN, Seattle Post-Intelligencer

The King County Journal and nine other local newspapers have been sold to Black Press Ltd. of Victoria, B.C., for an undisclosed sum.

Peter Horvitz, president and chief executive of family-owned Horvitz Newspapers Inc., announced the sale to staffers by reading them a short news release late Wednesday at the company's Kent headquarters.

He wouldn't disclose whether the new owner plans layoffs or intends to continue publishing the papers, which include the region's fifth-largest daily newspaper by circulation.

Those disclosures are expected Monday morning, when representatives of Black Press visit Kent to discuss the purchase. It's set to close Nov. 30.

Barbara Morgan, the Journal's executive editor, told staffers in the Bellevue bureau there would be no layoffs, reporters said. When asked to confirm that statement, Horvitz would say only, "I don't believe she misled people."

Black Press owner David Black didn't return calls seeking comment Wednesday afternoon.

The properties sold, collectively known as the King County Journal Newspapers, consist of the King County Journal, a daily and Sunday newspaper; and two weekly newspapers, the Mercer Island Reporter and the Snoqualmie Valley Record.

Also sold as part of that group were seven papers distributed twice a month: the Auburn Reporter, Bellevue Reporter, Bothell/Kenmore Reporter, Covington/Maple Valley Reporter, Kent Reporter, Redmond Reporter and the Renton Reporter.

The sale includes both the Kent land that is home to Horvitz's company, at 600 Washington Ave. S., and a multimillion-dollar, four-year-old printing press. Horvitz declined to say whether Black intends to continue printing the Seattle Weekly and Investor's Business Daily on that press.

Horvitz, 52, plans to retain his titles and role, move his offices to Bellevue and continue publishing the Peninsula Daily News in Port Angeles and The Daily News in Maryville, Tenn.

In an interview, he said he regrets the announcement's timing, which introduced uncertainty into a holiday weekend for the roughly 330 Journal Newspapers employees.

"I wish we could have announced this Monday as intended, when the Black Press people would have communicated more than is appropriate for me to communicate," he said.

"The timing was driven by the fact that rumors got started," he said.

David Grant, a Bellevue-based Journal reporter, described staffers' moods as "apprehensive" after the announcement, though he said he and his colleagues were working as usual.

"One would hope they will retain at least some of the staff here," said Grant, who is the paper's representative to the Pacific Northwest Newspaper Guild.

Guild Administrative Officer Liz Brown said the union represents about 25 of the 35 employees in the Bellevue bureau but none of the far more numerous employees in Kent.

Horvitz offered the 10 papers for sale in mid-June, saying he lacked the resources to help them flourish. At that time, he said the King County Journal had become a money loser since 1994, when his company bought it.

It was profitable at that time, but since then it has been hurt by the highly competitive media market in King County, he said.

The Journal had a Monday-Friday circulation of 39,100 as of Sept. 30, putting it behind The Seattle Times (212,691), Seattle P-I (126,225), The News Tribune of Tacoma (116,150) and The (Everett) Herald (49,035).

Black Press is the largest privately owned Canadian newspaper publisher. It produces more than 100 publications and has 17 printing operations in North America, mainly in Canada but also in the U.S., according to its Web site.

Its Washington operation, known as Sound Publishing, produces 18 newspapers, including seven on the Kitsap Peninsula, two on Whidbey Island and three in the San Juan Islands.

Horvitz Newspapers Inc. is owned by seven family members, including Horvitz's mother, brother, sister and their children.

article originally published at http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/business/293446_journalsale23.html.

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