Thursday, February 8, 2007

Hearst might get a piece of Merc, CCTimes

The Contra Costa Times and the San Jose Mercury News could wind up being partly owned by Hearst Corp., according to documents in a federal antitrust case. When Dean Singleton's (pictured) MediaNews Group bought the Times and Merc in August, it was disclosed that Hearst wanted a 30 percent interest in MediaNews's assets outside the Bay Area. The idea that Hearst, owner of the Chronicle, would get a piece of MediaNews's Bay Area assets was ruled out on the grounds that it violated antitrust laws.

But Coco Times reporter George Avalos of the Coco Times reports today that, according to a sworn declaration of Hearst executive James Asher, the 30 percent interest in non-Bay Area assets would be "convertible into ordinary MediaNews Group common stock" under certain conditions, giving Hearst part ownership of all of MediaNews' operations, including those in the Bay Area. But such a move would require approval from the antitrust division of the U.S. Department of Justice. So far, the division hasn't even approved Hearst's ownership of the 30 percent stake in non-Bay Area assets. The story quotes John Amstrong, who heads MediaNews operations in the East Bay, as saying his company is currently responding to a new round of questions from the Justice Department.

• Press Club, Feb. 1: Hearst offered to sell Chron to Singleton

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